Tuesday, 8 March 2016

A Reflection of Lent

by Michaela Clancy

Every year I attempt to complete Lent, usually setting myself the clichéd challenge of not eating chocolate or sweets for the period of time. However, this year I was determined to do something different, which could possibly change my outlook on life.  My decision:  not to look at my reflection.

To some people this may sound like a complete impossibility, and I’m no exception. The idea of not been able to check my appearance before I left the house utterly terrified me. I realise that I may sound vain but I suspect that this would be the case for most people. It’s a challenge that I consider to be imperative in this day and age, where appearance is becoming more and more of a concern for people of all ages. The media publishes pictures of supposedly ‘perfect’ models or the newspapers are shunning shops for their skinny mannequins (which in my opinion is giving the same publicity to the ‘ideal’ body type).

I’m now over half way through my Lent and I am proud to say that I haven’t broken it. The first few days were eye-opening. I was amazed at how many surfaces I had to stop myself from checking my reflection in (iPads, windows, picture frames and even puddles). Observing my reflection every time I came across a reflective surface had become an oblivious habit. Before my Lent I was the girl who proudly announced that she wasn’t affected by the media pressures to look a certain way but even after a few weeks I’ve realised how deeply affected I had become. This for me was the most important discovery. That we can be so influenced by people we have never even met, that I was becoming so unconsciously intent on improving my image to please other people and not myself. At first, this was a harsh reality that I struggled to understand, but now I would love for other people to attempt what I have tried.

The effect that even a few weeks of been deprived of my reflection has had upon me is incredible. My confidence in myself has risen significantly and I didn’t even realise that my self-worth had fallen so low. I thought you were meant to want to change certain aspects of yourself and that it was natural, and the issue is that many people do want to change themselves or be like others. I’ve realised what a dangerous unknowing trap that is. We can’t change ourselves to look like another and I know that phrase is cliché but it’s never made sense to me truly, until a few weeks ago. I can now walk down a corridor with a blemish on my face and be happy that I haven’t covered it up, because psychologically , my own eyes haven’t seen it,  therefore why would other people focus on one minute area on my face.

I realise that giving up looking at your reflection for Lent is quite extreme for some and not manageable for all, but I would advise to most that even after a week you become so much happier in your own skin. This Lent has become a valuable lesson that I will treasure for the rest of my life, as I have achieved so much more than the satisfaction of not eating chocolate. I have learnt something about myself that is invaluable and it shows how every one of us is affected by the negativities that surround us.

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