I can't remember if I was in high school or college, but pretty sure I still had teen at the end of my age, I very distinctly remember one bored day looking into the mirror.
I don't just mean, looking, plucking, applying, and or washing, I mean looking and seeing. I was staring at myself, staring at my features and into my eyes. And I remember it was for quite some period of time, I want to say fifteen to thirty minutes, yes...I was bored, but also mesmerized as things started shifting. All of a sudden, the person staring back at me, wasn't the me I knew. All of a sudden, I saw what everyone else saw when they looked at me. And do you know, I've never stared at myself for that amount of time ever again.
It can be so frightening to see how other people see you. I think that's why it is terrifying for a lot of us to reveal our insecurities and our insecurities about our insecurities have this roller coaster effect that, well, you know how it can feel.
Years later, I was at a yoga teacher training in upstate New York. This particular training was built on introspective work, it was level one, it was meant to break you down, to see the truth inside you; to reveal the insecurities in front of you; to face the fears you didn't want to face; and to find some grounding in your own vulnerability.
On the final night of the training, all 120 of us gathered in the big room for our last exercise. I was sitting on the last row, but we were the first to go up. We stood up, and walked to the front of the room. With the other 100 students sitting in chairs facing us. We couldn't talk. I know, sounds cultish, but bare with me.
We stood in front of these 100 people in chairs, 5 rows deep and we were instructed to look at them, make eye contact with one of them, all of them, someone.
And here I was, in upstate New York, looking at that mirror again. Only this time, I saw them see me. It was gut wrenching. It was terrifying. I just remember finally locking eyes on one person, I didn't know them, I actually hadn't spoken to that person the whole week. And we locked eyes, and all I could do was feel the tears falling down my cheeks. I didn't wipe them, I just let them breathe.
I could see what was being seen. The parts of me that I don't pay enough attention to, the parts I keep hidden. The parts that are behind my eyes when I look away from someone who might be inviting me into their life. The parts of me that are insecure and frightened about showing up not confident, not unafraid, but vulnerable. The parts of me that aren't afraid to be who I am, but afraid it isn't enough or is too much. The parts of me that are all of those things, and is enough. I saw what they were seeing, because I was finally letting it be seen.
Last week I went to a yoga class and unbeknownst we were asked to do a similar exercise, but instead of with 100 people looking at you, it was just one person at a time, two different times. And it wasn't so scary to me anymore.
My heart started beating rapidly at the beginning, I was thinking "oh shit, these types of things are agonizing". And then I thought, "see someone else this time, don't worry about you being seen". And I did. And when we switched partners and my second partner whispered "this is so hard for me" and she closed her eyes momentarily. I softened, I felt a smile on my lips and an understanding in my eyes directed at her.
It's not easy to open the barriers that are our eye lids, to look directly into someone's eyes and be honest about who you are, and to honestly see them too. But it's possible.
It is possible to see yourself as others see you, and to accept it, love it, grow from it, learn from it, be it fully.