Years ago, I attended a client lunch at a chic, new restaurant. The glass, crystal and all-mirror décor was literally stunning; I didn’t have a clue what was real and what was a reflection and refused to visit the bathroom for fear I’d never find it or my way back to my clients.
As we sat down at our table, I spotted an attractive woman across the room. I thought she looked like a lot of fun. I liked her haircut. Her outfit was great. Over the course of my meal, I noticed that she too was having an enjoyable lunch with animated companions.
Then it hit me…. Ms. Fun-fab-do-and-wardrobe over there was ME!!
I was simultaneously pleased, shocked and overwhelmingly dismayed.
Pleased with how I looked (even if I had only liked the look because I didn’t know it was me).
Shocked that the restaurant’s funhouse décor had utterly confounded me. Even crows can recognize themselves in a mirror.
Overwhelmingly dismayed at the irrefutable proof of how hard I was on myself. When I left the house that morning, I didn’t consider myself to be attractive. I hadn’t admired my hair. And my outfit was merely sufficient.
I’d like to say this experience was a turning point, and ever after I had a positive self-image and engaged only in positive self-talk. But that would be a lie. I’m still self-critical. I still berate myself for things I barely notice in others. I still get mired in occasional bouts of self-loathing. At least now, I can almost immediately derail the train of thought.
I’m learning where the line between gracious humility and reproachful self-criticism is.