Out of True

Written on by Kathryn Lerro

In my bedroom with my closet doors open, I stand between the two mirrors mounted on the back of the doors. I try on one outfit after another, but nothing looks right. I’m attending a baby shower in a few days and I want to figure out what to wear ahead of time, so I won’t be in a panic at the last minute.

This decision shouldn’t be so difficult.

When I was growing up, bridal showers and baby showers were informal gatherings, often held in someone’s backyard or living room. At those showers, women wore what was casual and comfortable, what they might wear to a picnic. But most of the showers I’m invited to these days are quite different—they are held in upscale restaurants, and looking put-together is important because it means I’ll feel confident and have a better time.

So here I am, looking at my reflection, front and back, and feeling discouraged. I admit that I‘m a couple of pounds heavier than I was a few years ago, but what I’m regarding in the mirror is so strange: my backside looks disproportionately large, and I wonder how it is possible that my weight has shifted so dramatically. What I’m seeing is not only making me unhappy with how I look, it is actually making me unhappy with who I am.

Suddenly—thankfully!—I notice that one of the mirrors is bowing in the middle—pulling away from the closet door. I press on it and the whole picture changes. I’ve been looking into what is essentially a funhouse mirror—and unfairly berating myself for the distorted view!

I take a break from trying on clothes. I get out my toolbox and fasten two more clips onto the mirror and the door. This pulls the middle of the mirror in, so what I see in it is now accurate. Everything looks better, and I’m able to choose an outfit easily.

I’m relieved to know what I’ll be wearing to the shower, but I can’t stop thinking about the mirror. There’s something churning in my brain—something bigger than glass and silvering and reflections. I remember that a mirror which reflects an accurate image is said to be “true.” And one which does not present an accurate image is said to be “out of true.”

And eventually another thought floats to the surface.

Aha! Here is what my subconscious has been trying to get at: Comparing my life and my worth to the lives and worth of others is like looking into a distorted mirror.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve compared myself (my life, my family, my bank account, my house, my car, my education, my successes, my appearance, etc.) to other people. Comparison always leaves me feeling bad; it always leaves me feeling like I’m not good enough; it always leaves me feeling like I’m somehow “less than.” And just as looking at my reflection in the wonky mirror made me misjudge the shape of my body, comparing my life to other people’s lives makes me misjudge the value of my own.

I ponder the well-known Teddy Roosevelt quote: “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and it occurs to me that comparison doesn’t have to steal my joy—I hand it over willingly every time I begin to measure my own value against the value of others.

Maybe if I knew all the painful things other people were hiding: if I knew their insecurities, their flaws and failures and fears, if I knew what comparisons they were making between themselves and other people. If I knew all their hidden stuff, maybe I could compare myself to them more fairly. But since I will NEVER know all their hidden stuff, any comparisons I make will be wildly unfair—like comparing apples to iguanas.

How can I break the comparison habit?
I need to stop thinking about things that are out of true, and focus instead on the things that I know to be true . . .

I am loved.
I have what I need
I am doing my best.
My life has value.

Photo by Taylor Smith via Unsplash

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