Mindfulness in the Mirror

By Jeanine Lebsack

I love the night time, when I’m finally alone and the moon is my only company. I love to read and write when I feel inspired with the moonlight as my muse. I hear the gentle sounds of snoring as I tuck my kids into bed; everyone is sleeping. 

Before I retire for the night, I carry out my evening ritual of cleansing my skin, brushing and flossing my teeth, cleaning my glasses, and brushing my hair. What makes my ritual a little more unique is that I’m prayerful while doing these daily tasks. I’ve had this routine as long as I can remember, and if I don’t participate in it daily I feel a pang that I missed out on something special that makes me happy.

As I remove my glasses and clean my lenses, I thank God for my gift of sight. I ask that he will help me to look with love at myself – even if there are times I don’t like who I see in the mirror. I gently remind myself that it’s my mom’s face looking back at me, and she was the personification of beauty.

I take my eye makeup remover, put it on the cotton ball, and remove my makeup while asking God to remove all negative things I’ve seen that day. Then I wet my cloth with warm water and massage my face while adding my skin cleanser. As I’m cleansing my pores, I ask for God’s grace to remove impurities from my aura that I’ve absorbed throughout the day, helping me to glow with positivity for myself and others.

I then take my toner and rub it all over my skin and neck, asking that all my unkind thoughts expressed to be washed away as I learn the lesson to speak with love, kindness, and respect to myself and my family. I then massage my face with my night cream and ask for forgiveness as I wipe away all the years of disappointment and judgement I’ve felt or given.

I’m mindful in the moment as I pick up my brush and comb my hair, thanking God for my blessings and opening up to become a better person than I was yesterday. With each brush stroke, I thank myself for everyone I have helped and everyone who has helped me. I also vow to appreciate all the abundance I have instead of wanting things I don’t have.

I reach for my toothbrush and squeeze out the toothpaste, swiping away all the mean words I’ve said and deeds I’ve done in my past and present. I then take my dental floss and clean carefully in between my teeth. I pray for patience when my bucket is empty and the stress overwhelms me, causing me to clench my jaw and lash out with meanness. I think about all the foods I have eaten today and thank God for the ability to purchase them and the home we have to store them in. I pray that I’ll make better decisions if I chose to indulge in junk food, and I thank myself if I had better nutrition and rewarded my body with healthy foods.

Next, I take my favourite lotion and massage my hands, wrists, and forearms. I’m grateful for the strength I have and for my beautiful sons – whose hands I’ve held, whose hugs I’ve received, and whose gentle touch of drying tears I’ve felt over the years.

After I’m all clean and freshly-scented, I put my lip balm on, being mindful of any negative words that fell from my lips, while also being thankful for the soft kisses shared and the love I have for my husband.

After my ritual is complete, I stand and look at myself in the mirror. Sometimes I smile, sometimes I sing, and a lot of times I cry.

I think back to when I was younger when I’d spend hours looking in the mirror pointing out things I didn’t like – the size of my nose and the blackheads living on it, how chubby my cheeks were, and how many crow’s feet I had around my eyes from squinting without glasses. I would carry on with how I disliked that my ears stuck out too much, especially when I pulled my hair back into a ponytail. I would promise myself that one day I’d get all these imperfections fixed, as I wanted to be a model and actress; I thought that, with my glaring imperfections, I wouldn’t get any roles or even an audition for that matter!

I wouldn’t let anyone take a picture of my side profile, and a lot of times when the camera came out I’d hide behind my hair or a hat. I was convinced that everyone would start teasing me about who I saw in the mirror. I’ve learned now, after many years of therapy, that this is a condition called bodydysmorphia. I spent so much time in the bathroom as a teenager that my sister would be pounding on the door threatening to knock it down!

What she didn’t know was how I cried and lamented these features given to me. How I judged myself so harshly that if I was teased about the way I look I would skip school, hide in my room, and would only come out to eat. I had already heard all the negative things from my inner critic and didn’t need it reinforced from the bullies I encountered. High school can be a cruel place and can even feel like a prison if you’re seen as less than and treated accordingly. That behaviour changes who you are and erodes your self-esteem until you’re nothing but a mere shell of yourself. I wonder sometimes what I would be like today if I was one of the cool kids at the table – one of the kids who experienced popularity instead of judgement.

I still remember the moment I stopped judging who I saw in the mirror. It was the day that I brought my son into the world and the doctor placed him on my chest. As he cuddled up to me skin to skin, I was in awe of how beautiful he was. I studied his features closely, counting his fingers and toes, stroking his hair, and marvelling that he was really here… and mine! I realized he had my eyes, ears, and lips (which came from my mom) and his daddy’s nose and chin. We created this precious baby with love, and in that moment my own spirit started to fill with healing light.

When my beloved Mama met my son for the first time and held him in her arms, I melted with emotion. I was so grateful for her giving me life so I could give him his. I saw her eyes filled with love, while she snuggled him close smelling that newborn baby aroma… which I’m sure is rainbows, sunlight, and baby powder. I saw her smile as she wiped the tears that were flowing down her face. When she sang to him, my heart was uplifted, and I was free from all my self-inflicted pain and judgement.

I resolved to never treat myself so harshly. Now that my parents are gone from this earth, I look at myself differently. I thank my mom for giving me my nose, no matter what size. I have a reminder of my ancestry and how powerful and amazing genetics can be. A piece of her, passed down to me from my grandpa and my great grandpa. I look at myself now and smile; I see my high cheekbones and my full cheeks. I thank my dad for these features that were passed on from my grandma and my great grandpa.

I know all my siblings have this genetic trait from our dad and our ancestors: when we smile, our eyes disappear. I look at the wrinkles around my eyes, knowing that I’ve had memories of laughter. I look at the slight creases by my mouth, and I think about all the happy moments I’ve had – the ones I’ve expressed with my smile. Lastly, I look at my blue eyes and realize that, even through the tears they’ve cried, I’ve seen countless moments of joy, love, and beauty. I strive to be less judgemental of myself and others, as we’re all just doing the best we can. Our bodies are mere vessels; it’s our spirits and the experience of truly living that matter the most. This is me being comfortable in my own skin. This is me being committed to loving myself instead of wasting the years I have on regret.