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Like the tree falling in an empty forest, not looking in mirrors suggested some existential quandaries. I quit trying to blow-dry my hair and instead made an appointment for a blow-out (feeling geisha-like as I looked modestly down and away from the mirror during the process). But when it was over, I found myself staring straight into the unfamiliar face of a perplexing question: If I can't see myself, do I still look good? And conversely, on a rainy, bad-hair day, if I can't see myself, do I still look bad? The answer, of course, is subjective. And if the subject—that would be me—is absent, there's no definitive answer. Following that thought led me out of the forest into the shimmering dazzle of a bright idea. I sat there in the salon, blinking it into focus. Except for me, then, who cares?

In a moment, the machinery of my vanity ground to a stop. And in the stillness, less concerned about my physical presentation—or maybe, relying less on what I'd hoped was the pleasant distraction others might find in my appearance—I felt a raw, unadorned freedom.

For all of my adult life, looking in the mirror, I have objectified myself, wanting to recognize myself as the person I—somewhat literally—make myself up to be. I've then toted this image, heavy with expectation, around in my head. But I don't have similar expectations of the people I love—my friends, my husband. Some days he looks good. Some days he looks really good. But during those times when he hasn't appeared princely to me, has it made me depressed? Have I run out to buy him hair dye? Scheduled urgent appointments for eyebrow grooming or teeth whitening? I haven't. I love his face simply because it's my most vivid reminder of who he is. What if I chose to regard myself in the same way, without the burden of expectation?

By the time I'm ready to look into the glass again, I feel sanguine. After all, for the past several days I've either thought I looked a lot worse than I did or I've looked a lot worse than I thought I did. Both perspectives have their advantages.

I stand at the bathroom sink. I'm not wearing makeup. The light's kind of harsh. Here's what I see: a woman friendly and forgiving. And I'm plainly glad it's me.

Change Your Self-Image—For the Better

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