I think being self aware is a good thing. Well, mostly. It’s good to be aware of our own thoughts and actions and how those affect the people around us. It’s good to be aware enough that we try to step out of ourselves or our own little worlds in order to be someone better or stronger or just … “more”. I think it’s good to push boundaries, even though it’s also really hard.
But, sometimes, being self-aware is just so freaking painful. There are moments when the most biting, purest form of self-awareness sneaks up on you and just bites you in the ass. You know, like when you happen to catch sight of yourself in a mirror, unexpectedly, and you feel startled — as if you’re staring at a stranger. And then, you think, “My gosh. Is that me? Is that what I really look like? Is that really the person I am?”
Because, in our minds, we picture ourselves a certain way. We don’t necessarily think of ourselves as the sum of our outward appearance. We picture all the parts of ourselves that make us unique — the important, inside parts, like creativity and kindness and compassion and love and fear and dreams and secret thoughts. All of the beautiful and scary and fun and crummy things that make us … well, “us”. And so, it’s easy to forget that, maybe we have lots of gray hair. Or, perhaps, we are a carrying around a bit more chub than we would like. Or, whatever. The point is that the outside reality doesn’t always match up with the inside reality. At least, that’s the way it is for me. Maybe I’m just weird or something.
Last week, I had a sudden and unexpected moment of self-awareness. It was a startlingly painful moment of clarity. I went out to meet a friend at a local place for lunch. It’s one of those places with limited seating and a long line, and I ended up getting there a bit after her and standing in line for a bit while she grabbed a table. I was in line behind a group of four people: two men and two women. They were all obviously on their lunch breaks. They were dressed for work and all on their phones the whole time. The women were so elegant and perfect. Their hair was perfectly done and all sleek and shiny. They were thin, and their shoes coordinated with their outfits. They had on beautiful makeup, and their outfits were stylish and flattering.
And I stood there in line behind them and thought about how so many women are a complete mystery to me. It’s like I’m a different species from them. I don’t understand the hair thing or the make-up thing. I don’t know what stuff like foundation primer is or what you do with it. I don’t know how to go through a whole day without getting my clothes all wrinkled. I always wear comfortable shoes. I’m usually covered in dog hair. I suddenly pictured myself standing next to these gorgeous, elegant, perfect women, and I had to struggle to keep from laughing. Me, in my old t-shirt and frumpy sweatpants and running shoes. Me, doing my best “sweaty beast” impersonation because I just finished working out. Me, with my hair all up in a messy pony tail, with bits and pieces flapping all around my face and standing out straight from my head. Me, with my gray roots showing and my smile lines and no make-up at all. Me, a frumpy-dumpy, overweight, frazzled, middle aged woman who, let’s face it, basically never managed to reach “elegant” in her whole life. Suddenly, I felt ridiculous, but also as if I had been completely laid bare for all the world to see. It was a humbling experience. It shook me. My first reaction was to laugh out loud at how silly I was. After that, it was all I could do to keep myself in that line. I had the almost overwhelming urge to push my way back through the crowd, out onto the sidewalk, and just keep on running until I found a dark corner in which to hide my less-than-perfect self.
It wasn’t easy. But I made myself stay there. I made myself wait in that line, a stark contrast to the feminine perfection just in front of me. So, I’m not a perfectly elegant woman. So, I never will be. My nails always look nice, though. I do have that going for me. It’s a small thing, but perhaps it’s a start. And, of course, I was on my phone the whole time, too. But I was playing Pokemon Go.