Friday, February 8, 2008

through the looking glass, part 2.

i finished washing my hands, reached for the hand towel, and instinctively looked up into the bathroom mirror. i would typically have one of two reactions to my face's reflection: 1) who is that?? that doesn't look like me at all... 2) that. is. repulsive. my face is too blotchy, my eyebrows need to be waxes, my hair looks like shit, my mouth is too big, etcetera etcetera...
this time was different. i was looking my reflection without judgement, and all i saw was... me. it was a foreign feeling for me, but there was nothing to judge. the signals my eyes were sending to my brain were so literal, so objective. a long face, hazel eyes, light skin... colors and shapes. this was one of the infinite possibilities of faces that could be created and it was mine.
i was lucky to have all of those features. some children are born without ears, some people are in accidents leaving them with faces that are hardly even recognizable as a human form. everything was in perfect working order; i could see my reflection (despite my minor astigmatism), i could smell, i could taste. how is it possible that we deny ourselves enjoyment of these sensations because of what these taken-for-granted features may look like?

i pulled back my hair and, all alone in the bathroom, smiled at myself in the mirror. this is who i am and there's nothing there i could imagine feeling such hatred towards. i was done letting myself believe that i was anything but beautiful.

* * * * *

as a photographer, i can tell you that you will never be able to see yourself the way that others do - it's impossible. there are a few reasons for this:

1) our eyes have lenses just like cameras do. the way the light forms an image is all about the angle at which we look at it. looking down over our bodies is like taking a picture of ourselves with a wide-angle lense, and portraits with a wide-angle lense are very rarely attractive. it's nothing to judge ourselves on.

2) looking down isn't accurate? okay, so we'll look at ourselves straight-on in the mirror: a reflective surface, now typically of glass, coated with a metal amalgam that reflects an image. yes, women base their self-worth by the reflection off a piece of glass coated with metal, which i can guarentee (according to the law of life that says "there is no such thing as perfect") has flaws, itself. dents, uneven coating, scratches, perhaps it's slightly off angle... are we noticing how ridiculous this is all sounding, yet?

3) when i sit down to retouch a shoot, i usually end up staring at the same shot(s) for up to 3 hours. usually, after about an hour or so, i need to turn visual opinion rights over to someone who hasn't seen it, yet. when you look at an image for too long, you're able to see every diminutive, insignificant pixel and it becomes nearly impossible to see the frame as a whole and without judgement. think about the last time you looked at a simple, elementary word for too long and it started to look absolutely absurd. you've known how to spell that word since you were 6, but it just doesn't look right anymore. this is what happens to the image of ourselves after years of staring at our reflection.

"alright, so every time i see myself, it's inaccurate. how do i know what i really look like?" the point is, it doesn't matter. whether or not you like what you see in the mirror, it's who you are and who you always will be to yourself. you have a body, just like everybody else. you have a head and facial features, just like everybody else (we can only hope). the point is to learn to appreciate what your body does for you rather than how it appears, visually.
if you hate what you're looking at, stop looking at it. get rid of your full-length mirrors. there is no reason your self-esteem should be lowered by a piece of glass on the wall.

[the above event occured under 2 years after that of part 1.]

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