(written for House of Hope - posted on their site 11-16-16)
Cathy, a cute young woman, walks up the wooden steps onto the spacious front porch of the beautiful old house on Second Avenue. She opens the door and carefully steps over the threshold and finds herself in the front foyer. The warmth of the space calms her and she smiles at staff who happens by, busy with their many tasks. Knowing where she is heading, she quickly moves toward the stairs. The first stairs are easy enough; she has climbed them plenty of times. But there is a turn at the landing where she’ll pivot to the left and continue to the second floor.
She feels her heart beating a bit faster. The stairs are steep, yes, but that’s not the only reason. She knows she will have to face what is at the top of the landing.
Having forgotten to set her alarm, Cathy had to dress in a hurry that morning to arrive on time for her therapy appointment. Her newly washed jeans felt tight on her hips and her hair was a mess. Just having time for a quick brush of blush, she was less that perfect as she started up those stairs. Tight jeans always made her feel fat, bringing back the comment she overheard when she was young, “She sure is a chubby one!” Chubby: she hated that word. But even more she hated the way she could feel that bit of flesh bulging over the waist of her jeans.
She knew she looked awful. She sensed that others thought she was too fat. They secretly shook their heads and wondered how she had let herself go. She couldn’t believe it either. Why couldn’t she get a handle on this eating thing?
But first she had to get past what was at the top of the landing.
With a deep breath and determination, Cathy stepped on the last step, not looking up for even a second.
But someone was coming down the stairs and her presence made Cathy step to the right where she happened to see, out of the corner of her eye what she was hoping to avoid: that fat, ugly, shame filled image…reflected from the mirror in the beautiful wooden frame, at the top of the landing on the wall in the beautiful old house.
Cathy quickly looked away, filled with dread at having seen what she feared to be true: she was hideous and should really turn around and head home, safe from such realities.
But at the top of the stairs, her therapist called out cheerfully, and she continued up the last flight…no one ever knowing the way she viewed her reflection or why her eyes beheld such a distorted view.
What do you see when you view yourself in a mirror. How do you react?
At House of Hope, we believe that how we feel about what we look like, tells a lot. We teach extensively about becoming our own ally, our own best friend, the one on our side, the parent we never had. So many times during our Phase One class this fall I repeated, "This is what this class is all about. You are here to learn how to stop accusing yourself. Step to your side, put an arm around your shoulder and say, I love you. It’s OK for you to be you. You’re OK, just the way you are."
I tell the ladies in my class to start this positive self-talk by looking in the mirror to practice being a friend.
When I see a friend, I look her in the eye and smile.
Can we not do that for ourselves? With our new relationship of self-kindness and self-compassion, can we not look ourselves in the eye and smile and be a friend to the only one whose approval makes any difference?
One day Cathy will look forward to seeing herself in that beautiful old mirror. She will look herself in the eye and smile, knowing that there is no one else like her. She was created to be just the way she is: precious and beautiful, treasured by Father God, the one who created her and by the one who lives in her skin, Cathy herself.
1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.