Accepting the Face in the Mirror

My friend Beth wrote yesterday about accepting “the face that looks back at me” when looking into a mirror. Not always the easiest thing to do, especially for those of us plagued with tendencies toward perfectionism. It is not really primarily about physical appearance (although I admit to groaning at the weight I need to take off when I look in the mirror) but about who we are (and aren’t) and what we do (and don’t do). So I look at myself in the mirror and say, “I’m not patient enough,” or “I’m not generous enough,” of “I should have done more or better there.” There are infinite variations on the theme, but, in one way or the other, they all lament, “I’m not good enough.”

I’ve written before about this tendency to think we are never good enough, that we have to do more, that we have to be perfect. We read the “be perfect as your Heavenly father is perfect” in Matthew’s Gospel to demand of us a higher level of performance than it is ever possible for us to achieve.

That is a destructive tendency. This kind of perfectionism not only robs us of peace, but, as the last line in Beth’s post suggests, it limits our ability to love others. It is awfully hard to accept and love others if we can’t accept and love ourselves.

One suggestion that has been made to me and that I have made to retreatants is to try to look at ourselves through God’s eyes rather than our own. Try sitting down to prayer and asking God, “Lord, what do you see when you look at me.” It produces a very different picture…one worth holding on to.

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