Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

I wasn’t going to post about today’s daily prompt. In fact, I opened up wordpress today with the sole intention of blogging about something different entirely. And then I read it, and that changed. Because actually, it’s kind of an interesting one. 

Look in the mirror. Does the person you see match the person you feel like on the inside? How much stock do you put in appearances?

It’s actually the second part of this question that I find most intriguing, but for fear of stepping out of line and doing something different, let’s stick to the order we were asked in. As it’s currently 2:10am, I’m going to avoid the mirror for this. It’s been a long day and I’m very tired, but I reckon I’ve looked in the mirror enough times in my life to be able to answer it without doing so again now. So here goes. Maybe we’ll just treat this photo as a mirror, so we all get an idea of who I’m talking about (and if you still don’t get it – it’s me).

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I guess first I need to explain who the person I feel like on the inside actually is. Herein lies the first problem for, alas, I have no freakin’ idea. Yeah, I’m on of those people. One of the ones who feels the need to travel and figure out exactly who I am and what I want in a comfortably unique yet obnoxiously cliché way. Through my life, I’ve kind of relied on other people’s perceptions of me to find out who I am. This led to overwhelming self-doubt and complete lack of confidence in my early teens, though I got through this in the same way that every other sheepish, bashful teenager manages to and finally decided to stop letting other people’s opinions matter that much. Though through my late teens this led to a more developed sense of self and happier mentality, my lack of care for other people’s opinions also landed me a dreadful sense of style. I’ve often thought this as I scroll through my old facebook photos thinking something along the lines of, ‘what? I was really allowed to go out looking like that?‘. It was a step in the right direction, but I still wasn’t quite there. It was then that something wonderful happened. University.

With University came an entirely new lifestyle (and an entirely new wardrobe). I was surrounded by new people who had no pre-conceived perceptions of me. People who thought I was different to the people I’d gotten used to at home and people who thought, god forbid, that I was ‘attractive’. This was a hugely exciting prospect at the time as, prior to this, it was never something I’d considered myself to be. I learned a lot about myself over those first two years, but it’s really been this last year that’s allowed me to learn the most about who I am.

I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in summer 2013. This was the first turning point as I realised that I was far, far stronger than I’d ever thought I was, both physically and mentally. I was forced into a situation where I was entirely outside of my comfort zone and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Returning from this trip and becoming an Adventure Leader for a company called Student Adventures, I’ve learned that I’m more organised than I thought I was. That I’m a better communicator, and that I’m harder working than I realised I could be. So that’s great. I’m strong, I’m organised, I’m a decent communicator and I work hard. But I don’t feel that’s who I am. Which sucks. Because I’d like to know me. There’s still so much I have to learn about myself.

So does that match who I see in the mirror? Well… no. Not at all. The person I see in the mirror has things sorted out. I’m not one to let things show on the outside, and I don’t give a lot away from my face unless I’m with someone I know really well. It’s hard for me to talk about certain things, so I don’t let the outside world realise that those things even exist. I’ve got that down to an art. Every morning I wake up and have a shower and style my hair and decide what I’m going to wear for the day. I’m in control of that. I know how to do it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to who I am. I’m not in control of that and I don’t know how to find it. Bummer. I make a point of acting like everything’s totally cool all the time even if it’s not, unless I’m with good friends – friends who I don’t care if they see me angry or upset. It’s rare, though. I don’t know what it would be like to meet me as somebody else, but hopefully I would seem like someone who has their next move figured out, whatever the situation. And I’m really not that. This is why I believe that how you look actually is important. It completely defines how other people perceive you. Which brings me nicely onto the second question.

How much stock do I put in appearances? A lot. How you look is very important. I’m not talking about whether you’re attractive or ‘ugly’, fat or thin, tall or short, whatever. I’m talking about how to carry yourself. Okay – so nobody falls in love at first sight with your personality. That’s true. But having self-confidence and taking care of yourself can be so much more important. If people want to go around not caring what others think then I’m not going to stop them, but I can’t do it. Not anymore. It needs to be thought about – whether you’re trying to get a job or simply give someone else a good impression of you, you’ve got more chance of doing it right if you make an effort with your appearance. It’s as simple as that. Do naturally attractive people have it easier? Probably. But people who care about themselves do as well, no matter what they look like before the morning routine. It’s true that I judge people by how they look sometimes, but I’m human. And if you deny that you’ve ever done that, I don’t believe you. I think a person’s appearance can be a reflection of what they’re like, in one way or another. And though we all have days where we look like we’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, a person’s appearance can be their gateway to somewhere else entirely. It is by no means the be-all and end-all, but it’s that little boost along the way.

So go for it. Be daring and care what people think. When you care about your appearance, you feel more comfortable in yourself. When you feel more comfortable in yourself, you feel more confident. And when you feel more confident, you feel happy. And really, at the end of the day, that’s all anybody really needs.

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I don’t think you’re a loser… but then, I don’t know you.

The main point of today’s entry – yet another painfully cliche, though totally appropriate entry about things that need to be fixed in society – is about judging people by their looks. Oh, wow, how original is this one? Yeah. I know. Work with me here.

I have an account on a website called Tumblr. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it is in fact very similar to WordPress website; you log in, you blog… you get hooked, and never log out. Besides the point. It’s hugely popular among teenagers and young adults, though is also used by older people and musicians, often trying and failing to use it as a way to ‘stay relevant, stay cool’. Mine is made up 99% of pictures, and I keep any text posts I want to make separate and stick them on my blog here. If you want to check out my Tumblr to see what I’m talking about, just {click here} and it’ll open in a new tab.

By many people, Tumblr is viewed as a safe haven – an area of the internet where they can post what they want, talk to who they want, and be totally themselves without worrying about what other people think. That’s what the follow and unfollow buttons are there for. A lot of users claim to be completely accepting of anyone and everything. Whilst many of them are – you’ll find some of the most open-minded people you’ll ever meet on this website – many of them only accept others for who they are when it suits them.

As with many social networking websites, Tumblr has an ‘ask box’ where other users can submit messages either from themselves or anonymously. It’s not uncommon for these messages to turn nasty. Just today – and the inspiration behind this blog entry – I saw people having to deal with messages saying things such as, “you’re such a fake tramp”, “I’ve met girls like you before, slut,” and “you’re ugly, why would anybody even want to know you?”. This kind of thing isn’t funny. And a lot of the time, it’s clear that the person sending the message and hiding behind the grey, anonymous face icon, is making these assumptions based solely on the looks of the receiver. We’ve all heard the “don’t judge a book by its cover” saying, and unless we’re talking about law textbooks here (why am I even on this course?) it’s absolutely true.

Perhaps the girl you keep calling ‘fat’ has some kind of medical condition, or the girl you’re calling ugly has a problem much more devastating in her life that needs to be dealt with over how she looks when she goes to school. At the same time, if a girl wears a lot of makeup, or you think the clothes she wears are too revealing – that doesn’t make her a slut. There is no logical connection between the clothes you put on when you wake up and how many guys are going to be taking them off for you at the end of the day. Maybe they’re just trying to look nice and be comfortable. Just like the person judging them for doing just that. In the same way, not everyone who is considered mindblowingly attractive is a self-obsessed, stuck-up egomaniac who looks down on other people because they’re not as good looking as they are. This whole thing works two ways.

I know I’ve spoken exclusively about girls above, but I find this thing doesn’t happen much – if at all – with guys. I occasionally get a message of “you’re a loser” or something in my ask, which might affect me for half a second before I realise I’m not the one hiding behind a computer screen sending anonymous hate over the internet, but it’s much more rarely about looks. I’m happy with my life, the way I look, my friends, all of it. And if someone else thinks I’m a loser because of that, I couldn’t care less.

My point is, people need to get to know someone first. Once you’ve done that, make all the negative comments about them you want, if you really feel that way. It’s probably nicer not to say it in an anonymous internet message and instead keep it to yourself, but at least you’ll have foundation for your opinions. I know exactly how much a single negative comment can affect an insecure teenage girl. It can take a long time for them to not believe it.  So instead of trying to ruin someone’s day with some kind of negative opinion, maybe people might like to send an anonymous message to someone saying how good they think they look. Or how nice a person they are. Or anything, really. Because if we did judge books by their coves, I probably wouldn’t have read the Hunger Games.

And that’s a good book.