What I Saw When I Gave Up Mirrors for Lent
I haven't looked in a mirror since March 5, the day my pastor thumbed a black ashen cross on my forehead. I won't look at myself again until the trumpets sound under my country church steeple on Easter morning.
I gave up my reflection for Lent because I'm tired. I'm tired of the self-degradation that we engage in as women. We tell ourselves that we're not enough—or let our bathroom scales tell us that we're too much. I'm tired of how we, as women, often see ourselves and each other as a series of parts and "thigh gaps," or lack thereof. I'm tired of the photoshopping and the airbrushing, and yet, I am guilty. I deftly wield Instagram's Amaro filter to magically take five years off my face.
I'm tired of being a hypocrite in front of my daughters. At ages 12 and 9, they're now are old enough to know when I'm talking a good game and when I'm actually living what I believe. Children are mighty fine accountability partners. They are also mirrors themselves, reflecting what they see in their parents.
We've all seen news reports of the studies about preteen girls and their eating disorders. Nearly 80 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being overweight, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. We're quick to point an accusing finger at the glossy covers on magazine stands. But what are we modeling in front of our own mirrors while our children watch? I wonder how many times our children see us suck in our post-baby guts, scowl at our reflections, run away from cameras, or shake our heads in disbelief when someone pays us a compliment.
As Christian parents, we are the main (or at least the first) influencers in guiding our children into having a positive self-image and developing a healthy understanding of their identity in Christ—loved and accepted, as is. But now—perhaps more than ever in human history—we are being bombarded with opportunities for literal self-reflection.
Image-based social media sites "force patients to hold a microscope up to their own image and often look at it with a more self-critical eye than ever before," said Dr. Edward Farrior, president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. "These images are often the first impressions young people put out there to prospective friends, romantic interests, and employers, and our patients want to put their best face forward."
(Farrior's organization found our selfies are encouraging more people to go under the knife. One in three facial plastic surgeons saw an "increase in requests for surgery due to [patients] being more self-aware of looks in social media.")
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