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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Starting with the man in the mirror

Published: November 11, 2011
Section: Opinions

Every morning we look in the mirror and criticize our appearance. We all see different things. No two reflections are the same; however, no one seems to be satisfied. We go through long morning rituals in the hope of changing our appearance and transforming the face that we offer to the world. It may just be a little bit of makeup and it may, in fact, be no makeup at all. It may be our clothes, our hair or our bodies—we always find something new to cover, something new to hate. And we all agree on one thing, that face that we offer to the world has to be absolutely perfect, it has to be flawless. So we do what we have to do, we hide our emotions, our insecurities, our weaknesses. We put on a mask every morning. We hide because that is what people do.

Appearances are deceiving: That is a fact. It is not up for discussion; it is not a question but an answer, not a supposition but the truth. That mask we wear rarely comes off—if it does at all—and we go through life making friends with masks similar to our own.

The problem with these masks, as beautiful as they may be, is that we lose ourselves in them. No one can get to know who we are because no one is allowed to see what is underneath the mask. Think about it, we all have something to hide. Not anything serious, of course, but secrets will be secrets and they are meant to stay inside.

I personally do not know anyone who wakes up in the morning and, while looking at his reflection, thinks that he should be happier, better, kinder or politer. I do, however, know many people (myself included) that wake up in the mornings and pay attention only to what is on the outside, to those things we don’t like. We complain because that is what people do, because that is what we were taught to do. Most of us want to be a size zero, tall, blonde and beautiful. But what happens with those of us that do not fall into those categories? It certainly does not make us any less capable, intelligent or beautiful.

Some people may look perfect on the outside. They may seem to have it so easy. A perfect life, perfect grades, perfect hair. But usually those people have it harder than everyone else. In my experience, the happier people seem, the more miserable they are. I am not saying this is true for everyone. Some people are genuinely happy and good but, more often than not, they half-smile their way through life.

The mistake that we make in the process of wearing our customized masks is to assume that pain makes us weaker, when in fact it makes us stronger. Everyone has gone through something and has given something up—as big or small as it may be—in order to be where they are. No one is born confident or successful, or happy even. Pretending to be all of these things, and hiding under a mask of perfection instead of learning from what we really feel, that is what makes us weaker.

It is not looks that we should be so concerned about. It is the person underneath that matters. Being brave is showing the world our true face. That which is not beautiful but damaged, not flawless but imperfect. Now that is courage. People are not what they seem to be anyway. In my opinion, and you can call me naive if you want, they are even better.