What Do You 'Mirror' In Others?
"There is a magical 'click' of recognition when the looking glass says back, 'Yes, we are what we dream.' Too often we lack such mirrors and such transforming moments."- Julia Cameron
Inside, each of us is a swirl of memories and feelings, ranging from painful to utterly joyous. We all have insecurities. We all have traumas. We all have little guilts and things we never bothered to fully process or learn. We also have gifts. We have proud moments and memories of deep love, understanding, and appreciation. It's amazing what we possess and what we're capable of.
But empathy doesn't always work that way. Sometimes our traumas cause us to lash out, or suppress and avoid. Sometimes we feel weak when we're actually strong, and it takes a big event or risky decision to meet our true bravery head on.
Julia Cameron has been a massive influence on my writing and self-talk, since I first tackled her book and 12 week course: The Artist's Way, back in 2016. It was Cameron who first carefully drew out my childhood stories and reflections on my hometown, family, and first creative influences. She has a way of nurturing your creative spirit, coaxing out the more courageous parts of you, often shamed into silence by hurtful learning experiences in childhood, and helping you, bit by bit, to champion them again.
Today I read her thoughts on "mirroring". We receive crucial incentive to push forward to our goals and align with our truest selves when people we admire and care about 'mirror' us in genuine positive light. But when their mirrors reflect their fears and insecurities onto us, we are held in place by an idea of ourselves that simply isn't true.
"We are far more multiple and rich than most of us assume. We are far larger and more colorful, far more powerful and intricate, far more deep and far more high than we often concede." - Julia Cameron
I think this concept extends to all people. We come in with big dreams and big, beautiful impressions of ourselves and our potential, but a well meaning parent or mentor or friend might only project their mirroring of a treacherous, difficult road to those dreams. Perhaps best left alone, we are led to think, and suddenly our impression of our self is a whole lot smaller and less capable.
When I feel inspired by someone, I've taught myself to mirror that inspiration back to them. You never know when someone could use an acknowledgment that their bravery and dedication is seen. You never know when you might need a positive mirror, yourself.
Shane, as a mirror, is like no one I've ever met. He leaves no compliment unsaid. He will champion your best and bravest self straight to your face and behind your back. In one of my weekly frenzies of self-analysis and frustration, Shane will trace it all back to a place of love, and draw my attention to that place. In five years, his exceptional mirroring of me and everyone else we know has never been shaken. He often subconsciously helps me adjust my own mirroring tendencies.
My mom has mirrored the utmost patience and faith in me as an artist and human without fail. Her picture of me as brave, capable, and resilient has pulled me out of a few failure holes I was too embarrassed to crawl out of without help.
My brother has the gift of solid, positive mirroring outward, paired with a tireless faith in his own inner compass. Even the sneakiest negative mirrors out there won't pierce his thick skin. He won't waste time judging you for your less than ideal mirroring either. It's pretty incredible.
I do think some of us naturally lean toward certain reflections of the world. We are programmed to do so by our parents, schools, friends, and societies. But when we become more aware of our personal mirrors--the way we affect others, and the degrees to which others have an effect on us, we create opportunities to grow. We move towards seeing a truer reflection of our best selves, and we learn to reflect a powerful, beautiful picture onto those who need it.
I also think there's something to be said for our mirrors of the world as a whole right now. There is so much fear and uncertainty being reflected that it feels like only the most valiant heroes are able to hold up mirrors of bravery and much needed belief in a better version of things. Wherever you're at, it's perfectly OK. And it's a great time to notice your mirrors and withhold judgment (of others and yourself) for the time being.
The mirror I'm currently holding up is one of gratitude. For my family and friends, for my healthy existence and the time and ability to keep writing. For kind and gentle readership. For little incremental improvements in my daily life each day, and for the people and mirrors that help me make it happen. Thank you.