Friday, April 8, 2016

The Dragon in the Mirror

A funny thing happens when we look at ourselves in the mirror.

Each time you glance at your reflection, you see yourself through the lenses of your perceptions. It can change depending on your mood or psychological state. For an extreme example of this, those experiencing the psychological dragon known as body dysmorphia see a very skewed version of their physical selves, which doesn’t match up with how the rest of the world would describe them.

Any visual artist who has dabbled in the realm of self-portraiture knows about this strange phenomenon. Just have a look at Van Gogh’s series of self-portraits. When his psychological dragons were powerful within him, the way he painted himself reflected this. During his most intense emotional periods, his self-portraits also took on that intensity in the shapes and lines, colour and contrast.  His own perceptions of his eyes, cheeks, and the visceral hallows he painted around himself at times also reflect the way he felt about himself and the world around him at the time of each painting.

The way you see your own self in the mirror may be very different today from how you saw yourself ten years ago. Did you like what you saw then? How has it changed?

Do you see yourself as others see you?

While going about your daily life, the people you interact with recognize you for certain behaviors and traits. The characteristics they see may or may not match up with the way you see yourself. The more self-aware you are, the more you are able to close the gap between the way people see you and your knowledge of how you interact with the world. 

A good way to get know how other people see you is to outright ask them! It can be terrifying to make yourself vulnerable in this way but it can also be very revealing!

A few weeks ago, for the purpose of getting clear on the way I present myself to the world, I posted an anonymous survey asking my friends to tell me my three best traits. The responses included traits which I hadn’t even considered before, but moving forward, I can be more aware of how I use them. (I highly recommend this exercise to anyone wanting to know the strengths they present to the world so that a conscious choice can be made to focus on strengths, and deepen the impact you have on others!)

In daily life, you may get clues about your less favorable traits.  If you want to know more about these, ask someone you really trust to give you an honest answer in the most constructive way possible.  Their answer will hopefully give you insights into how this trait is having a negative impact on your life, and what you can do about it. Sometimes, just being aware of something allows you to create positive change.

Ultimately, being more self-aware will help you to see those mental dragons for what they are (Tweetable!) so that you can start to function at your best while they are in your life. 

When you can pick out the reflection of a dragon’s influence in the mirror, it brings you one step closer to self-acceptance and inner peace. It offers the ability to see that distortion for what it is: a dragon causing a perceptual distortion.  It is very separate from your true self: the non-judgemental watcher and consciousness behind it all.

What do you see when you look in the mirror today? Are you looking through a dragon’s eyes or can you see your true self? How has this changed over time for you?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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