What Do You See? ©2021 Louise Gallagher In every image I see something of me reflected. In every image there is a reflection I must see. Sometimes, I want to avoid looking at the reflection I see. Sometimes, I want to see only what I want to see reflected. Always, I must open my heart to see what is being reflected back to me.
It is hard sometimes, to look at ourselves in the mirror with our eyes wide-open and say, loud and clear so our heart can hear, “I Love You.”
Go stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eyes, deep into your eyes, take a deep breath and clearly state (keep your eyes open and looking into your heart) “I Love You.”
And, if it’s hard, if you hesitate or want to shut your eyes, or cry or shake your head from side-to-side in disbelief, ask yourself, “What is so unloveable about me?”
And, if the answer comes easy, if you have a list of ready-to-speak reasons why not loving yourself makes perfect sense, start there. Start in that painful, awkward, uneasy place where unself-love resides. Start right there to love those broken, ugly, untouchable places where you tell yourself you do not deserve Love.
We all deserve Love.
We all deserve to love ourselves. Many of us have not been taught it’s important. Or many of us have been taught it’s selfish or conceited. But, if we don’t love ourselves, how will we teach our children to love themselves enough to do the loving things? To treat their life, all life, as precious? To treat themselves and others with dignity and respect?
And, if we cannot love ourselves enough to speak the words today, how will we speak to ourselves in the tough times? In the times when we need tender loving care to get through the rough spots on our road? Or when life hits us with one of its curveballs and we just want to curl up into a ball and turn the world off? How will we take care of our heart, and the hearts of everyone we love, if we are beating ourselves up with Unlove?
Years ago, when my mother was around 85 and living in an assisted living centre, my then-teenage daughters and I went to visit her one evening. As she shared some of her life-story with us one of my daughters asked her, “Do you love yourself Nana?”
Mum blinked her eyes. Fluttered her hands around her face as she always did when she was nervous or uncomfortable and replied with something like, “What a silly question.”
My daughter did not back down. “Do you?”
Mum breathed out. Kept laughing nervously.
At this point both my daughters knew what was necessary.
The pushed her wheelchair to the full-length mirror in her entryway. They said, “Try it. Look at yourself and say, “I Love You.”
My mother was taken aback. She giggled and replied. “Oh no. No. I can’t do that.”
The girls were adamant. “Of course you can.” And each of them demonstrated how ‘easy’ it was to do and say.
“You do it too, mum,” they called out to me.
So, following in my daughters footsteps, I demonstrated ‘the how’ to my 85-year-old mother.
Still she hesitated. With encouragement, she finally looked at herself in the mirror and said, “I Love You.”
And then, she fluttered her hands around her face and exclaimed, “Oooh La La!”
It was such a sweet, tender moment, and at the same time, poignant and sad.
To be 85 and never to have told yourself, “I Love you.”
My mother was not, is not, alone in her silence.
We are a world of human beings who have never learned to say those words to ourselves.
Have you? Ever told yourself how much you love yourself?
When you stand in front of the mirror, who do you see reflected back?
A woman or man of integrity, humility, honour, beauty, strength, courage, passion, dignity, truth, wisdom, compassion, caring….
Or do you just not look? At yourself? Deep into yourself?
Do you just brush your teeth and hair and put your make-up on (and maybe notice with dismay a new wrinkle or two) or shave and avoid looking deep into your eyes?
Whatever you do in front of that mirror, that’s what you do in the world. So, if you want to change the world, start by changing how you look at yourself in the mirror and what you say to yourself.
Start by practicing, “I Love You.”
You’ll be amazed by what happens.
And PS — if it’s too hard to say the words, get a crayon that writes on glass and start by writing it out and reading it to yourself every day until you’re ready to claim the truth.
Sometimes, self-love starts with baby-steps…
About the artwork:
I am fascinated with carving stamps. I created the botanical on the left by first imprinting it with vaseline on the page (the vaseline acts as a resist to the paint) and then using the same stamp to print it on the right with black ink.
The little botanical is also a stamp I carved.
The background is watercolour and acrylic inks – the ‘mesh’ is created by using drywall tape as a stencil and dabbing paint through it.
Mixed media 8 x 10″ on canvas paper
The words were put in place in Photoshop (not physically printed on the page)