We can’t choose where we come from, but we can choose where we go from there.
And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.
Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose - and commit myself to - what is best for me.
This public art project by Candy Chang is a love letter to the historic, resilient, warm, musical city of New Orleans.
In modern society, running into reflections is a constant. I’m not comfortable looking into mirrors, but I don’t detest the person staring back at me anymore. I simply don’t know her yet. When I was in active addiction, and even before, I would duct tape all the mirrors in the apartment, just so I wouldn’t have to look at my worst enemy every time I passed a mirror. I stopped doing this my second week of college because my roommates got mad I taped the bathroom mirror. I wasn’t ready to face myself, but I took down the tape out of respect. It was hard, and I still avoided mirrors at all costs. Fortunately, I’m not a girl who wears makeup, so that’s one less reason to carry a pocket mirror.
Today, it takes a lot for me to look into the mirror and tell myself I don’t hate myself. The conversation goes something like this: “Who are you? I don’t exactly like you, but I don’t dislike you either.” I haven’t gotten to the point where I can tell myself I love myself in the mirror, even if I don’t mean it. That’s a step in which I haven’t taken yet, and I likely won’t until I’m ready. I’m okay with the person I see, and that’s good enough for me today.
What allowed me to go from hating my reflection to being okay is knowing my perceptions of myself are sickly skewed. They simply aren’t accurate, and my mind exaggerates certain things. My thighs and stomach aren’t as big as I think they are. I’m not as flat-chested as I believe. And my butt isn’t as saggy as I think. The “fat” I see on my arms is skin. My posture can be fixed. And no matter how small a zit is, I’m sure a moon could orbit it and everybody is staring at it all the time.
All these things are external, though, and I tend to focus on outward appearances when scrutinizing myself. So to remedy this, I turn my focus inward.
Instead of thinking of all the stress, anger, and resentments I’ve caused, I think about the good and joy I’ve given to others in my life. I think about the smiles people return, and it helps to remind me to smile too. Knowing I can put a smile on someone’s face allows me to not hate myself as much. Even if I can’t change the world, bring world peace, or cure cancer, I can change someone’s day by being kind. I work in customer service, and sometimes people are grumpy in the morning. It’s only natural, but when I greet them cheerfully, their disposition changes, and I’d like to believe they would have a brighter day because the girl at the gas station made a few jokes.
So when you find yourself obsessing about something looking back at you, remember that your perception of you is not real. It’s as sick and messed up as you are, and that can all be changed in time. It has taken me nine years to look at myself in the mirror, and it has taken me eleven years to be okay with that person looking back. This isn’t an overnight transformation, but remember that you are beautiful on the inside, and you have something beautiful to offer the world.