Updated: Aug 22, 2021
One morning, like any other day, I crawled out of bed. 4am. Gym time! I shuffled half awake to the bathroom, pushed the door, and looked up. The face that greeted me in the mirror was unfamiliar. I gasped and did a second take. Thankfully, I hadn't morphed into the Loch Ness monster. But what I saw, however, was the deep sadness that etched itself in every line and expression of my face. My eyes told the story of hurt, regret, anger, resentment, and defeat. I had seen glimpses of this face before. But as usual, I always turned away quickly. Too scared to look myself in the eye and say Hello. But not today.
Truth be told, my mind had long held my soul captive. The image of perfection that I carefully crafted, had long muzzled the quiet voice of my being. I pushed aside every feeling I perceived as weakness and held on for dear life to the things that made me appear strong. I thought I had to have it all together. I became the over-generous friend, the one who knew it all in the room, the over achiever at college, the consummate professional at work, the one who won every argument. I had to be the one who was always right - who had the last word. A force to be reckoned with one would say. But I could no longer ignore the feelings and insecurities that I had buried deep beneath the narcissistic machinations of my mind.
For someone like me - an introvert, a quiet thinker, I never could have believed, nor admitted, that my success(es), my wit, even my very approach to life was all about ego. I thought ego was a character trait easily (and only) ascribed to maniacal dictators. I pushed through life ignoring the glaring warning signs that I was standing on shaky ground. Ignoring past traumas, insecurities, past hurts and feelings, I substituted them for something inauthentic - an image of perfection that I skillfully crafted and honed. I pushed aside the internal work and strove for external success. But every success brought with it a high that quickly faded. All that was left in the aftermath was emptiness - a feeling of being lost, unfulfilled, incomplete. But all l I ever wanted and truly needed was inner peace, quietness, stillness - to feel authentic.
I have come to realize, however, that the ego feeds on the external. It needs the delusion of self to achieve its sinister objective. The end-result is nothing more than the dysfunctional self, cloaked in an image of self-perfection. But the true self will keep tearing at that image until the dysfunction is laid bare for all to see. That reality was hard for me to face. But my mirror showed me that if I truly wanted peace, quietness, and stillness, I had to look at myself head on - eye to eye. No more running, no more delusion, no more ego. I had to do the work on me and only for me.
The deep sadness I saw on my face that day was the true reflection of my inner being. My soul had lost the battle it fought with the mind. Ego had clearly won. The price I paid was the numbing emptiness I felt on the inside. But all was not lost. The mirror also gifted me with something priceless - the truth. Truth never lies. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is a notorious liar. So I discarded it. The truth of my life was then free to surrender itself to be seen in its wretched, painful form. I had no where to run. So I confronted it - I watched it, acknowledged it, accepted it. I began the tedious work of understanding my own pathology - my cycle of self-defeating behavior. Now, after much work, I can recognize my own reflection in the mirror. And I can look myself straight in the eye and say HELLO.