Every morning, in front of the bathroom mirror, I watch myself brush my teeth. I don’t know why. My mind wanders, it plans the day, it contemplates issues. But this morning I had an odd thought.
The person looking back at me, is not who everyone else sees. I will never be able to see my face the way other people see me.
That’s right. Everyday, people see me as I see them – as three-dimensional humans. But for my entire life, I will only ever be able to see a two-dimensional version of myself, whether in mirrors, reflections, pictures or videos. Weird.
I have a sneaking suspicion there’s a big difference between what I see in the mirror and what you see when you look at me, and that’s a bit unsettling. If you’ve ever spotted a celebrity in person, the two-dimension versus three-dimension contrast is real. Sometimes the celebrity is recognizable, yet different in a way that eludes explanation.
Other times, the difference can be articulated. Many years ago, my aunt saw Kirk Douglas in New York City and said he was stunningly handsome. Even more so than on screen.
Maybe this is true for some of us. Other people can see depth in our features. Ratios and proportions that may not be accurately represented in flat presentations. Maybe this is why some people are quite attractive, but not necessarily photogenic.
On the other hand, if you’ve ever seen America’s Next Top Model, there are clearly people who appear somewhat plain, but their beauty seems to deepen and become definitive in photographs.
I know nothing about photography, but something seems to be added or subtracted from appearance in the translation of dimensions.
And that brings me back to the question about who is looking back at me in the mirror.
It is not me. It is only a representation of me.
I suppose identical twins don’t need to contemplate this odd fact of life. In fact, it ups the cool factor of being a twin.
Would I want to see myself as others see me? Of course! I’m curious.
Would I be like Kirk Douglas and more attractive in person? Or would I be more like the woman who wins the model competition but you’d pass in the street without a second glance?
Maybe if I could see myself in three dimensions I’d realize my make-up doesn’t really work as well as I think. Or maybe I have far more wrinkles than I realize once all the parts are moving in animated conversation. Although I stare at myself while tooth brushing, I don’t talk to myself in the mirror. That’d be weird.
On the plus side, maybe my gray roots aren’t as noticeable as I fear, and people don’t assume I’m trying to rock a new hair trend.
Have you ever heard a recording of your voice and thought it sounded much different than the way you hear yourself? Count it as further evidence for a distortion in self-perception.
It’s strange to think about, but ultimately pointless. Do people ever see us the same way we see ourselves?
I think of myself as having particular characteristics and traits. I would describe myself as serious, sensitive, talkative yet shy, kind, patient, sedentary, prone to anxiety and curious. Is that how others see me?
I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t use the terms above to describe me. And they’d probably add other terms that don’t resonate with me. How should I reconcile what others think and what I think of myself?
Just as others can see nuances in my face that remain a mystery to me, might they also perceive aspects of my personality that are also beyond my ability to appreciate?
The Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote (translated):
O would some power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us.
This would be helpful. Both in the literal and figurative sense of perception.
But really, what I think of myself, or what others think of me, does not matter more than what God thinks of me.
He created me, inside and out. The appearance in the mirror and the heart within.
He sees all that I am and all I can be. I am known. And loved.
I need to be less concerned about the face in the mirror, no matter how different it may be than what others see. I should less contemplative about what others think of my personality. My only concern should be my heart for God.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18
My heart for God honors Him. My heart for God is what will draw people to Him. It is my heart for God that matters above all else.
It does not matter if people “get” me. Or like me. Or don’t like me. Or think I’m attractive. I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and God, who began a good work in me, will carry it to completion (Philippians 1:6).
The same hold true for you. And that isn’t an odd thought. It’s a fact.
If you could see yourself the way others see you, would you? Why or why not? Can others see God in you?
Share your thoughts below!