Lately I notice mirrors everywhere; not actual mirrors, but messages, metaphors and people reflecting an image of myself that I expertly avoid or manipulate to fit my perfect narrative. I dare say that image is not one of the impeccably coifed, collected and accomplished woman that I strive to be. In contrast, I see a flawed human being who has been impatiently constructing a model resume replete with the right education, the successful job, the unblemished aesthetic, and even awaiting an ideal love. In writing this, I am reminded of the classic story of Snow White, where the Evil Queen obsessively asks a menacing-looking head suspended in a magic mirror, “who is the fairest of them all”? As a child, this appeared to be a simple story of good versus evil; yet, age and maturity allow me to discern and even relate to the nuanced symbolism. The mirror served as a tool to perpetuate the Queen’s ego and evade a universal truth: there is always someone fairer.
My mirrors are bringing into stark focus a notion that not only is there always someone that seems to have more or be more, but also that as humans, without exception, we are all inherently binary and vulnerable individuals just doing the best that we can on any given day. Ostensibly, mirrors reflect an image of reality; but in fact, they can only portray the beholder’s subjective viewpoint. And what is reality if not a mere projection of our brains’ clever inner workings? Albeit challenging in that it requires taking responsibility for the experience and results of our lives, we must acknowledge that reality is one of our own choosing. Speaking for myself, instead of facing, accepting and integrating the good, the bad and the ugly as part of the divine design, I distort or deny the unpleasant images. I strap on my metaphorical hard hat and build invisible walls to separate myself from the discomfort or perceived imperfections. Poignantly, the Universe continues to slap me in the face with the real truth. As speaker and author Byron Katie so wisely observes, “everyone is a mirror image of yourself—your own thinking coming back at you.” Every interaction and every person that enters our lives is a reflection of a particular quality or characteristic that we ourselves possess, if we choose to see it. After all, we can only recognize what we know.
As I’ve been masterfully sidestepping anything and anyone that embodies this less than perfect ideal, I am beginning to realize that I am not just missing the fun of the journey, but I am actively setting the bar so high that I am destined to stand alone on my pedestal. I might have a great view from the top, but it sure is lonely up there by myself. In a climactic scene between the Merlin and Arthur toward the end of Deepak Chopra’s The Return of Merlin, the wizard shares the secret of his power with the young king: “Have you considered what this world really is?…Wherever I look I see reflections of myself. Look into the mirror of the world and you will see only yourself.” If I can look acutely at the world’s beauty and ugliness and see myself in all of it, then there is nowhere to run and nothing to achieve that is any more perfect than what already is.
When I really look at myself in the mirror – not in a fleeting appraisal of my appearance, but rather with an open curiosity and depth – I am faced with my real truth: that I am the good and I am the malevolent, I am Snow White and the Evil Queen. I am perfectly imperfect and just like everyone else on this planet, I long for love, connection and meaning while committing countless fantastic mistakes that will never be showcased on a resume. In this house of mirrors that we call life, the reflections are not always beautiful and very often they are frightening. But we cannot let our eyes or our egos deceive us. I suppose I am the fairest one after all, not because of my list of impeccable attributes or accomplishments, but because I am a reflection of pure love – if I choose to see it.