This morning I looked in the rearview mirror as I was driving to work, and for a moment, I saw the timid little girl I used to be, with ears that she hadn't grown into yet and droopy bedroom eyes.
I saw myself through the eyes of that little girl, always feeling like somehow there was something wrong with me or that I wasn't like everyone else. It was a story I told myself for a long time, that with my crooked teeth and shyness, I must not have been meant to be "normal," and would just have to keep pretending to act like everyone else.
I remember staring at myself when I was a child, wishing I had eyes like Jasmine from Disney's Aladdin movie, and trying to figure out how to wear my hair to hide my ears. Thinking, if those things could just be different, if my teeth could be straighter, if the popular boy in class could just like me, then I would have everything figured out.
I can still see my old childhood self studying how other people acted, interacted, and related to others to try and figure out how they seemed to have "made it."
The whole time I was a child experiencing these thoughts, I was missing the message that the only thing holding me back was myself. I got braces in middle school, and once my teeth were straight I felt less of a need to prove myself to others. I gained confidence and felt that I could hold my head higher. But nothing about me as a human had changed at all. Our outer appearance does not define who we are. Straight teeth don't make us a better person. It was only my mindset that had really changed and allowed me to open up.
These stories we tell ourselves can hold us back as long as we let them. Even once we know they are not true, they may still pop up from time to time when we least expect it. I'm sharing this to show that just because old thoughts and negative thought patterns may pop up from time to time, it doesn't mean we have to believe them. It doesn't mean they have to continue being a part of who we are.
So, what is one to do when you look in the mirror and see your old self?
1. Don't try to avoid the thoughts. Accept that the thoughts are there, and that not every thought has to be considered truth.
2. Look at your face in the now. It is not the same face as your old self. Years, time, and knowledge have built it into the "you" that you are now.
3. Love your old self, no matter how hard that may seem, as your old self has helped shape you into the beautiful person you are now, no matter how negative the past may have been.
-The Wonder Vegan
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