Some say girls like mirrors. It’s nice to be able to look into a mirror and see if you have mud or food on your face. Or a boogger in your nose. Or some weird growth. It’s nice to have a full length mirror: to see how your outfit’s looking, to check if you sat in dirt and to check if you’re gaining or losing weight.
Many places I’ve been in Africa have not had mirrors! In America, it seems that they are everywhere. Certainly everyone has at least one decent one in their home, and I’ve always had several.
There is a certain level of freedom in not having mirrors, because you can’t obsess over your looks. I’ll admit that I’m the type that has spent many hours staring at my skin and messing with it and over analyzing. There’s a freedom in not even having the option of even doing that. Can’t put on makeup, because you can’t even see yourself.
But there is a big level of UNCERTAINTY. Uncertainty in not knowing what you look like! You could have a big smear of dirt across your face and be completely clueless.
Crappy, Broken, Little, Dirty Mirrors
A lot of times I’m nomadic, so I can’t carry a nice mirror around with me. The one I had been using was about 4 x 5 inches with a plastic frame. I used to do my make up in it even at my apartment because it was the only mirror I could position in a good place where there was good lighting. That little mirror, on my last journey, (to the desert in Katse, Kenya) broke into 3 pieces in my bag, but the plastic frame “kind of” held it together. Then it fell two times and eventually it was in about 10 pieces, but I kept using it until I left. I left it with Maureen at her house. In Africa, many people use broken pieces of mirrors. Why buy a mirror when you have a somewhat decent sized piece of mirrored glass?
Fun House Mirrors
I’ve also ran into DIRTY mirrors, or mirrors that there is just SOMETHING WRONG WITH IT. I’ve been around mirrors that make me look very thin, and some quite wide. The nice full body one in the place where I stay in Nairobi: it makes my head look small. Luckily there is a second mirror, which is still big (shows the top half of my body) and it seems that those proportions are close to reality. Don’t judge too much of what you see in the mirror. Mirrors can definitely lie.
Why do we even care so much what we look like? It’s just a container for our souls. The inside is the part that matter. But still, I like to know what I look like. I’m like the fool in James 1:23-24. It says “23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” And I’m like well that’s me!
I was talking to a guy a few months back. I told him about how I would get hit on in Kisii so much, like 10 times a day. I added: “Even when I don’t look good!” To me, this is the line between makeup, hair clean and styled, make up, decent clothes vs. no makeup, hair a MESS, baggy jeans and a huge hoodie/jumper. And he said “Who told you you didn’t look good?” Well hey, that was a wake up call! I knew that answer very well, but I didn’t tell him. “Myself.”
Another struggle in knowing how you look is bad lighting! I think most ladies know this. Hard to know what you look like if everything’s dark!
I’ve known for sometime that external validation is suicide. I learned this in Africa, when no one sees you they way you want to be seen or how you’ve been seen in the past or how you see yourself. I’ve struggled a lot with identity and validation since I’ve been living in Africa. When the world doesn’t see you as you see you, who are you?
I hate “beauty filters” on selfies. Beauty filters are like a hazy, blurry film that some cameras or apps add to your natural pictures. The intent is to hide pores, acne, scars, etc. I hate it. Not that I love my zits, big pores or acne scars – I don’t! But I don’t want to have this polished, fake image online. I want to be real as much as possible. I got a new phone this year and the selfie camera either has low resolution or it has a mandatory beauty filter. A sweet little boy who has hearts in his eyes for me took this amazing picture of me with the main camera on my phone. When I first saw this pic, the first nano-second I saw my acne scars on my cheek. After about 2 seconds I saw my insane joy and happiness. I love this picture. I love how you can see my pores and non-perfectly smooth skin. My crooked, coffee drinking teeth. I mostly love how much you can see my happiness.