surface and subconscious

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It’s been a week since I have tried on Aaron’s unique wild card challenge.  And I must admit, I have failed miserably at the task.  Yes, yes I took the mirror off the boat with the best of intentions and then literally minutes after reading the post, walked into the marina bathroom and immediately caught myself peering back  from that conveniently located space above the sink.  Ok – Day one – strike one.  I started keeping track.

Breaking any routine is hard, I guess, and it will take some time getting use to shifting any part of the involuntary daily bathroom routine.  So I started by standing beside the sink to wash my hands and brush my teeth: this could be done, right? That afternoon, I walked into town, and maybe an hour later: Argh strike two! The door to the coffee shop was glass (caught myself… checking out my hair).  I went to check my phone messages and Bam! Strike three – caught the reflection on the phone’s screen.

After returning to the boat that evening, I managed to steer clear of gaining anymore strikes hanging out on the deck free and clear, I thought, “this must get easier the more I think about it, and get use to it”. But somehow it didn’t.  On Sunday I counted 4 strikes.  Monday-6, Tuesday/Wed-5. Thursday back to 3 and Friday-4.  Now, some of these strikes were mere accidental sightings (not spending time lingering, admiring or agonizing) but in some instances, I noticed these unconscious yet intentional movements of my body seeking to “check myself out”.

I knew this would be a very difficult challenge, but had no idea it would make me think so much.  Why do I need to check myself out so much? Is this an unhealthy obsession with my surface appearance, or is it more a subconscious desire to check in. It’s not like I have ever spent hours in front of a mirror doing my hair or make-up each morning (I actually never even learned how to properly put on make up and I still don’t own a hair dryer) But I am now noticing this magnetic draw to the surface of mirrors… In the car, I’m moving the rear view mirror, and then…there I am – checking myself out.  I walk into a public bathroom – argh the entire wall is a mirror! I open my computer lap top ah there I am working hard reflected in the screen. Store windows, windshields, rearview mirrors etc.  I am finding myself everywhere calling out to myself to fix my hair, adjust my glasses, smooth my brow.  Geez for thinking I am not a very vain person, I am beginning to question this habitual desire to check in with myself and “fix things” or making sure everything is alright.

What is that need or instinct to want to see myself? Why is it so strong? It’s as if I need to know that yes “everything is ok” and my eyes need to spend a second or two reflecting on them selves staring back for some kind of validation or approval? In my case, I do feel like it’s more of an approval from myself rather than caring about others’ opinions – but for others it may be a different motivation.

Honestly though, I didn’t really notice different feelings from within without the mirrors, that is until Monday morning.  I was sleepy-eyed, tired and needing to get ready for work.  “Did I have sleepys in my eyes?” I sure felt sleepy.  Did my eyes look as heavy as they felt? I moved past these feelings, washed my face picked a comfortable sundress to throw on and did my hair by feel and left.  Easy peasy… I actually got more compliments on my hair that day than when I had tried intentionally to style my hair in the past.

This has been difficult task to take on because it’s just something we all do without thinking.  But it’s definitely worth trying. The attempt alone, has helped me become a bit more aware of these actions and question why I am making them.  “Is this out of my need or is it coming from an external influence?” It’s hard to break an ingrained habit that may have been a part of us from a very young age, either built by the design of our environments and/or built by our society.  Why have we been told to look right more than feel right? I would bet that this is a habit that every one of us shares to some degree. It may be interesting to trace back where it may have come from.  Don’t tell me you don’t check yourself out at least 3 times a day! The question is why? I am going to reflect on that for the rest of this challenge.

Post Script: Thanks to September Wild Card Grace LIchtner for taking the blind mirror photograph of me!

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

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