Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher

Turning away from the mirror


I have always been told I’m beautiful. Even as a child, strangers would stop and comment on my beauty. As a 50-something woman, I still get comments — though I must admit, I don’t turn heads when I walk into a room like I used to, especially if I’m with my daughters. Talk about feeling invisible!  🙂

But feeling invisible is not what this post is about. Beauty is. And the hiss of the critter’s voice flicking it’s tape of “You’re so vain!” through my mind as soon as I type the words, “I have always been told I’m beautiful.”

When I was in my teens we lived in Germany. My brother and I both went to the Canadian Armed Forces High School in the small town where we lived. Every morning we’d don our uniforms, wolf down a breakfast and race out the door. Except, the racing out wasn’t that fast for him. A handsome young man, my brother loved his reflection in the mirror. He stood in the mirror so long, we used to tease him about wearing it out.

And that was okay. My mother never chastised him for lingering in front of the glass. She never told him to ‘quit being so vain’ for admiring himself and she never said, “it’s not true,” when a stranger commented on his good looks.

She was different with me.

My eldest sister was a beauty queen. Tall. Slender. Beautiful. An oversized photograph of her with crown and sash graced my parents living room since she’d won Teen Queen status years before I reached my teens.

There was never any question that I would enter a beauty pageant. I was short, maybe even a bit pudgy, and constantly reminded that looking at myself in the mirror was vain.

It is a tape that runs through my mind still today. I heard it yesterday when a visibly homeless man who was walking in the opposite direction as I walked towards my car, stopped dead in his tracks in front of me and said, “Holy F**k. You’re beautiful.”

I laughed and smiled and said “Thank you” and we continued on our separate ways.

But the tape fired anyway.

What’s the question behind the question of the tape, Louise? My mind of reason and love asked. There’s something deeper here than a vanity tape at work.

And it was true. There was. Something deeper.

I love it when my mind whacks me on the side of the head and says, “C’mon girl. Dig deeper!”

I dug. And what I realized is, it’s not the surface response of ‘don’t be vain’, it’s actually all about trust. Or lack of it actually.

When someone pays me a compliment, I don’t trust that they’re telling the truth.

Not a particularly healthy way to go through each day — in fact, it’s downright self-defeating. Not only am I accusing them of being a liar, I’m undermining my own self-worth!

Think about it. A stranger stops me on the street to say I’m beautiful and really, my first response is to want to tell him he’s wrong — hello?  This is a stranger, and in this case, a man with absolutely nothing else to give but a compliment. Why not be gracious and accept it with a smile?

I know there’s still stuff around beauty that makes me uncomfortable. I look at my daughters and am in awe of their beauty and how comfortable they are in their own skin. I’ve never been comfortable in mine. I’m working on it, but it is, as my blog friend Leigh commented yesterday, a work in progress.

But rather than work on my issues around vanity and beauty if I focus on building trust, being trusting and trustworthy, it won’t matter what the critter hisses — I’ll simple smile and say, Thank you for caring enough to share, and continue on my way.

As Don Miquel Riuz writes in the Four Agreements “Don’t Take Anything Personally” — it’s not about me anyway. Whether someone thinks I’m beautiful or ugly, what they think is not about me. And it’s none of my business what they think of me anyway!

I’m all about me.

And trusting people, creating a world where we can trust each other, where I move through my day extending and receiving trust is something I want more of in my life. To have it, I must give it, be it.

And it begins right here, right now.

I began this post with a statement that makes me uncomfortable, I have always been told I’m beautiful. 

The discomfort of typing that, the challenge of putting it out there in the open stretches me. The voice that states, you can’t type that, it’s vain, rushes in, and in its onslaught I breathe into the truth — no matter what I look like, the truth about me is found in what I want to create more of in my life. It resides in the acts of kindness I share. the laughter, the joy, the love I create.

No matter how I look, turning away from the mirror of judgement and self-deprecation to see myself through the lens of compassion, love and kindness creates more of what I want in the world — peace, joy, harmony and Love.


Author: Louise Gallagher

I believe we each have the capacity to be the change we want to see in the world, to make a world of difference. I believe we are creative beings on the journey of our lifetimes. It's up to each of us to Live It Up and SHINE!

17 thoughts on “Turning away from the mirror

  1. I absolutely, totally get this, Louise!


  2. LG,

    When those who are blind tell you that you are beautiful, consider they are talking about the inside parts – or maybe they are using the braille method of looking at you.

    Either way, they are telling you they admire the contents as well as the container.

    What we see has little to do with dimples and curves, does not come from your giggles and smiles – it comes from knowing you for what you do more than what you say, from knowing what’s in your belly more than what’s on your agenda. You are you – and you give of yourself to others. Most people call that beautiful.

    p.s. as I write this to you, I am also penning my daily column – today it is about my friend who goes under the knife (pancreatic cancer) in Victoria this morning. I remember, when we were much younger, I envied him – every woman swooned, he was 6’3″, blonde, blue-eyed and charming. That doesn’t seem to matter now.


  3. Isn’t it funny. We are both around the same age… and both going through the same journey in a way. Wheverver you write… it always resonates with me as if I could have written it. I guess that is when you know you have something pretty special. When what you have to say makes a difference.
    You are beautiful! Our daughters are beautiful! They came from us! Grin!
    I too have had the mirror issue lately!
    Gotta love that guy… homeless or not! He was maybe more honest than your average Joe who might be thinking the same thing!
    I sooo get ya though… when you come from a place of abuse… everything gets muddled. We need to feel beautiful. We haven’t for so long.
    Recently I was going through something… It was the reconnection that I had with my First Love (the abuser). I’d made him the template of everything I did not want for my daughter. I made her write a list of the things she wanted in a partner and made her add Kind and patient (meaning for me anyway, NO TEMPER!!!) And she is now in love with an amazing kind and patient man! I did my job.
    Cough… cough…
    and yet… she was so angry when I responded to “his” apology… and a bit more… (another story).
    It’s been a long road but a few dozen months later… she shared with me how she “thought” I was perfect when she was growing up. She wanted to be just like me. She thought I was beautiful.
    I’ve gotta say it blew me away. We have always been close. But I never really considered what she thought of me.
    Am I sorry that I marred her view of me? YES! But if I could do it over… I’d do a lot of things differently. I don’t think a kid… grown or not… should have to know too much about a parent but I am kind of glad that she sees me as human now… cuz she had me on a pedestal way too high even as a survivor with a ton of mistakess that I used for her benefit… she saw me as beautiful. Go figure.
    As always your posts catch me off guard and make me think!
    Happy Friday!


    • YOu did an amazing joy Di! And yes, when they see us as human, they know our hearts, and when people know our hearts, they experience our truth. Your daughter is very blessed.

      And I am grateful for your light. So glad to be on this journey with you.

      Hugs — Happy Friday to you too!


  4. Beautiful post, Louise. Thank you.


  5. They say you can’t pick the face you’re born with but you pick the face you grow old with… The first time I met you I thought you were beautiful and I still do – inside and out.


  6. Great thoughts to your post. I have always struggled with any kind of compliment….wanting instead to either find fault or turn the attention towards the other person. Good for you for voicing this, my friend ♥ It’s a tough one for many ~


  7. Terrific posts. You hit all the big ones. I think so much of how people see themselves stems from childhood– and parents say things that can hurt and last forever even if they don’t realize it at the time. My mother always called one of my sisters ” a big girl..” meaning she was fat… and that sister has struggled with body image her whole life. And of course I hope I’ve given my kids the right messages. And btw, you are BEAUTIFUL!


  8. I too find it hard to accept compliments. Time for me to change.


  9. Wow Louise. That’s a whole new world for me. Everything looks so beautiful and calm on the outside – who knew. Beauty looks pretty idyllic but you’ve just shown me everyone puts their pants on the same way – one leg at a time. Thank you so much for sharing. Thanks for a great year of keeping us in the loop on a great adventure – being conscious of making a difference. It was wonderful. Cheers. You are a beautiful woman – inside and out!


  10. Yes, yes, yes! The gift of a compliment is always more about the giver than the receiver. I agree with your decision to accept the gift. Funny how in trying not to be vain, we communicate to admirers, “Well, my taste is better than yours — you are a fool to think so well of me.” That’s the trap of pride. We set ourselves above others, not when we accept their praise, but when we refuse it.


  11. I loved this post Louise. It helped me see my own standard response to compliments for what they are. In some misguided attempt to be humble, I was actually putting admirers “in their place”. It was as if I had been telling them they were stupid to have the feelings and reactions they had, and to show my disapproval for expressing them. How vain can you get?

    I can tell this was not an easy blog to work through, but I want you to know it helped me personally.

    Love, Susan


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