The Man in the Glass - Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr.
“When you get what you want in your struggle for self, And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself and see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life is the one staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest for he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test if the man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years and get pats on the back as you pass, but your final reward will be heartache and tears if you’ve cheated the man in the glass.”
“The Man in the Glass” is one of my favourite poem. Although over the years many new ones have been added to my list of favourites, this continues to be the one I often return to.
Poetry has a way of touching us and stirring something deep inside of us. Not just poetry but also people, books, music, movies & places. Some make us feel warm & cosy inside, some feel like home we often long to return to, some repel while certain others challenge & awaken us. Asking ourselves how or why we feel a certain way about certain things or people can help unravel things about ourselves & bring it to our conscious awareness.
I feel the more I ask myself, "how I feel & why", the closer I get to my own deeper self.
What can we learn from this ?
To me, “Man in the Glass”, is a beautiful poem about integrity & living a life true to oneself. And maybe I keep coming back to it because it's a value that's important for me.
How to build a loving relationship with the person in the mirror?
Self love is one of the ‘Conscious living practices' that me & my ‘Personal growth group' practice. One of the initial exercises that we as a group did to cultivate 'Self-love' was the "Mirror Image Exercise". The mirror image exercise involves you standing in front of the mirror, looking at yourself in the eye, and telling yourself, "I love you".
It was interesting to hear about the group members experience & inner dialogues when they first did this exercise. Some felt fake, as they saw an imperfect face staring back at them ( the color of the skin, the acne, the dark circles, the grey hair, loose skin etc ). But as they kept at the practice, things changed.
A lot of them who felt awkward to do this exercise at first began to look forward to it. So how did this change occur?
My guess is, while initially it was just their external features staring back at them, as they kept at the practice, they began to see more. They saw what lay behind that face. They saw their internal qualities that the mirror somehow didn't seem to reflect : their struggles, life stories, dreams, desires, efforts, and that melted their heart and brought them closer to their own selves.
Mel Robbins latest book, “High Five Habit", talks about a similar practice of physically giving your mirror reflection a high five everyday. When this book came out, I shared it with my group, telling them that we didn't have to buy it as we already knew the power of the practice and had ingrained it into our life as a keystone habit.
A word of caution :
This exercise of "loving yourself unconditionally" should not be mistaken for complacency or lack of drive to improve oneself. When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we can't help but see the flaws ( in addition to the goodness ofcourse ). While we should accept the flaws ( because they exist and we see them ), we should also use this awareness to grow into better individuals.
An exercise in reflection & visioning :
Join me in this exercise. Right here, right now, if you can. Get a pen & a paper if that's handy to pen down what you visualise or just close your eyes & reflect. Begin to visualise in your minds eye your wisest self/ higher self/ future self/better self, whatever you wish to call it, a self you admire & respect or would like to be like.
✨ What does this person look like - Confident? Calm? Loving? Strong?
✨ What are this person's facial features like ? How does his/her skin & hair look? What is this person wearing ? Get as descriptive or concise as you wish.
✨ What are this person's qualities - fearless ? Courageous? Bold? Kind? Powerful?
✨ How does this person express his life purpose? What does he/ she do for a living ?
✨ What are this person's values & beliefs and how do they express them?
✨ Is there anything else about this person you see that you would like to pen down ? Go ahead and do it. Take your time.
What you just did, is visualised your own self, the way you would like to be, live & express your life. Keep this vision in your mind.
Everyday, when you stand in front of the mirror, ask yourself, what can I do today to move closer to the vision I have of my wisest self?
“Don't depend on death to liberate you from your imperfections. You are exactly the same after death as you were before. Nothing changes; you only give up the body. If you are a thief or a liar or a cheater before death, you don't become an angel merely by dying. If such were possible, then let us all go and jump in the ocean now and become angels at once! Whatever you have made of yourself thus far, so will you be hereafter. And when you reincarnate, you will bring that same nature with you. To change, you have to make the effort. This world is the place to do it.” - Paramahansa Yogananda
While I love doing this kind of "visioning exercise”, sometimes it gets overwhelming, as I begin to realise how far away my future wise self seems to be from me. I feel antsy about the countless steps I need to take to get closer to her. The work that I need to do. But that's when I also realise that this awareness is what spurs me to act. Nothing ever happens without actions. And every little step counts. To me these steps mean :
- showing up for myself
- showing up for others who count on me
- On a good day, showing up for a stranger
- Forgiving others ( because what are mistakes anyway? Mostly borne out of confusions of the mind )
- Forgiving myself for wrong decisions
- Making an effort to move forward on my own dreams
- Giving my time to an elderly person or a child
- Giving myself the permission to take a break & relax when I feel overwhelmed
- Showing courage to face the truth, even when that truth is bitter
- Speaking my mind when I feel oppressed in any way
All of this takes me closer to my better self.
Why is it important to develop a loving & deeper relationship with ourselves ?
I believe that if you care to heal the world (a worthy cause & purpose for our lives on earth) you should begin by healing yourself. And that won't happen if you don't get to know yourself at a deeper level.
When we heal, we are better equipped to heal others & the world at large. And all of that requires "intentional action" from our side.
So the next time you stand in front of that mirror, make yourself proud. People who like & love you, already see you for who you are. You don't need to do anything to seek their validation. As for others, who don't see you for who you are, they probably never will, no matter what you do. So leave them alone & strive to seek your own acceptance through positive intentional daily actions.