Like all human beings, I am cursed to be self-critical. It is impossible to walk by a mirror without stopping and analyzing. Is that a blemish forming on my face? Why can’t my hair behave just once? Did my thighs always look that big? I can’t help it. I have flaws, like everyone else. But mine are sometimes all I can see.
When I stand in front of the mirror by my door, about to leave for class or lunch or the gym, I always give myself the full once-over. Yes, to quickly check that I didn’t forget to put pants on and that my shirt is not tucked into my underwear. But also to give myself a good hard look and see what I can improve on myself. I feel, as many of us do these days, as if my body is a project that needs constant reworking. I doubt, as I am sure you do too, that I will ever see it as a finished product. I wonder, as I know we all wonder, if other people see me the way I see myself.
It is hard in this day and age to be okay with who we are. We are constantly being told by social media and every other outlet that there is some physical ideal that we should look like, and it is thoroughly reinforced that we need to work hard to get there.
I am not denying that we need to stay healthy and try to be our best selves. Nor am I writing an article about loving yourself and recognizing your own inner beauty. I am advocating something else entirely: the power of a smile.
Because for all of the self-criticism I throw at the mirror, and the frustration when my efforts seem fruitless, I always give myself a smile before I go. I read once that smiling, even forced smiling, can make you feel better. I also know that seeing someone smile at you lets you know that you bring other people joy. Because you do. You may not know who or when, but every one of us has brought joy to someone else in our lives. So before I head out for whatever endeavor that day has in store for me, I smile at myself in the mirror. A big, goofy grin that tells me that I am someone who should be smiled at, and someone who should smile. We all are. We all should make ourselves happy. And we all should smile at ourselves in the mirror.
And hey, if you can't quite work your way up to a full-fledged cheek-stretcher, at least throw yourself a jaunty wink. Because then you will look at your reflection winking and looking ridiculous and hopefully you will laugh at yourself.