What do you see when you look in the mirror?

How often do you actually stop to look at yourself in the mirror?  I mean, really look at yourself?  Of course, I’m being rhetorical here, I’m not begging you to respond with an exact answer, I just realize that most of the time when I look in the mirror, I look past myself, checking just the details to make sure I’m presentable to the outside world.  I look without seeing myself, if that makes any sense.

Once in a great while, I actually stop and look myself in the eyes and have this weird moment of connection where I think, I’m that girl, the one with the long brown hair, the one who goes to school to teach children, the one that’s married to Alex and loves to write and travel.  I get that we are so much more than who we are on the outside, but sometimes, making that connection to our physical self grounds us in the reality that we’re here, living life, present.

I was just working on my book and this memory of looking in the mirror and seeing the future came back to me.  At the time, I was an economic analyst in Berkeley, but I knew I wanted to escape. Each morning I walked to work past an elementary school and I wished I was walking there instead of to my cube.  Sometimes, I would look in the long mirror in my office bathroom, and I would see a teacher staring back at me.  That probably sounds odd, but truly, I would look at myself and think, that girl is a teacher, not a cube dweller.

Reflecting on this now, I cannot help but wonder whether truly looking in the mirror is a more powerful tool of self-discovery than we realize.  I know it’s a commonly used phrase to take a long-hard look in the mirror, but I’m beginning to think it has some actual meaning.  Today, I still see a teacher staring back at me.  But, she’s also a writer, a traveler, and a much more alive human being.

As much as Photo Booth can make you feel like a teenager making duck faces for Facebook, it also provides that mirror snapshot. The chance to capture yourself and ask who you see.  I asked myself these same questions the other night after work, laughing into Photo Booth while my husband gave me funny looks from across the couch.  It was one of those rare moments I actually stopped to look at myself and I saw a tired, but happy teacher staring back at me.  When is the last time you stopped and really looked?

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8 thoughts on “What do you see when you look in the mirror?

  1. kingmidget says:

    I still see a little kid trying to figure things out.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Interesting. Do you see the kid you within your reflection or is it more metaphorical? What always tripped me out about seeing the teacher is I literally looked in the mirror and saw a teacher looking back at me. Ironically, I never really look in the mirror at work now that I am a teacher. Maybe I should, to see what’s next 😉

      • kingmidget says:

        Metaphorical. It’s like my self-image at work. Seven years ago, I was promoted to General Counsel in our office. I joked my first day that I felt like a little kid in his dad’s suit. I still feel that way and wonder when people will figure out I’m performing in a role I’m not yet ready for.

      • oliviaobryon says:

        I know that feeling, too. Life is funny. I guess we’re never really ready for anything!

  2. pithyfish says:

    I was just talking about this with my friend the other day. It’s interesting because for so long I would look in the mirror or at pictures of myself and I just could not make that connection between who I was inside and who I was outside. I just could not recognize myself. Sometimes, I still can’t. But it seems over the years that the connection becomes more clear, or maybe I’ve just stopped looking closely.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      I know what you mean, sometimes I can’t make the connection either, like, that’s really me? Your comment made me think back to when I was a teenager and would take pictures of myself to try and see what others saw. Then I was trying to understand the outside me, what others perceived. Now, it’s the other way around, I’m trying to root myself in the present and connect to who I really am inside. Life is funny. Thanks for the comment. Really like your blog, btw, I’m also a Sacramento native, so I connect to your journey away from home and back again. Enjoy the rest of your time in Korea!

  3. Seb says:

    This morning, when I decided it was time to cut the beard off. 🙂

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