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Mirror, mirror on the wall…whose the most honest one of all? Snow white honesty is an important and invaluable attribute. But can anyone really achieve it? Recently, a friend of mine posted on social media the following, “Be unabashedly, unashamedly, unapologetically yourself.” Hmmm. What are your thoughts on that? At first glance, it seems so positive, so powerful, so upliftingly proud. At second glance, it can seem so lazy, to accept that you are who you are without a need to improve or apologize. I very much love the friend who posted this quote. He has a good heart and has been a part of my life since I was 18 years old. However, we frequently disagree on solutions, issues of politics, faith, and personal responsibility.
Another friend stated to me recently that all social media is fake. She believes that everything people post on social media about their life is exaggerated, selective, and dishonest. I cannot fully disagree with her. However, it is a bit uncomfortable, scary even, to embrace the notion that most of what I am viewing on social media about the lives of my loved ones can be faked to such a degree that I may form a completely unrealistic impression of someone’s level of happiness, fulfillment, and health. This certainly cannot nourish deep, healthy, supportive relationships.
In the original 1937 Disney classic, “Snow White, and the Seven Dwarfs,” the evil Queen summons forth the Slave in the Mirror. Have you noticed that the image of the Slave depicts a masked face surrounded by smoke? We’ve heard the expression, It’s smoke and mirrors used to describe something intended to make one believe an untruth. How clever of the Disney animators to choose to use a mask and smoke for the Slave in the Mirror! There is so much symbolism in these scenes.
In my work as a counselor and coach, I find significant value in helping my clients form an honoring relationship with themselves. An honoring relationship considers all the fragments of one’s being and does not selectively deny some pieces while embracing others. Rather, the honoring comes when a person owns and improves those fragmented pieces of their real self that do not reflect the ideal self they would like to be. Closing the gap between the real and ideal self takes honest effort and intentional investment. When we misrepresent ourselves and deny pieces of ourselves, we disconnect, disrespect, and dishonor not only the relationship we have with others, but the relationship we have with ourselves as well. We know we are phony, because we cannot successfully hide or mask ourselves from ourselves as we do with others. Our deliberate smoke and mirror expressions leave pathetic impressions in our own eyes, mind, and spirit that do not fuel the embers of self-respect.
Self-perception theory claims that we primarily develop assessments of ourselves based upon our direct observation of our behavior. However, our impressions of what others think about us can remain enormously important. This is why some individuals take extreme measures to depict themselves in a manner to solicit particular feedback and admiration. In fact, our emotions are also connected to our thoughts of how others appraise us. Some social development theories convey that our appraisals of how we think others see us are skewed by how we see ourselves. So what does this all mean? What can we do?
“Be Yourself ~ But Always Better Yourself”
Being yourself brings honor to the relationships you have with others and yourself. When you look in the mirror or present yourself to others, try not to lie. Authentic impressions require honest expression and vice versa. Honest expressions can potentially foster much more meaningful experiences and relationships than the deceit sprouted through smoke and mirror expressions. A mentor of mine once wrote,
“Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves.” ~Nathaniel Branden
Because we are both perfect (made in God’s image) and imperfect (sinful) we can accept our full self. There is no need for harsh judgments and misrepresentations when we know we can bring honor by living truthfully and by intentionally improving our behavior. We may heed the moral lesson of the evil Queen and not allow vanity to intervene.
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
Until next week!
Dr. Marie Yvette Hernandez-Seltz is the founder of Candescent Counseling, Consulting & Coaching. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and an M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She has spent the past 15 years studying self-esteem, self-confidence, responsibility, and the effects of environment and culture on the individual.