The problem with mirrors is that they lie. Or perhaps, more accurately, they don't tell the whole truth.
Mirrors will show you the cavernous lines on your forehead that have become more pronounced as you've aged but they don't show you that these lines got there because you frowned too much at your spouse.
Mirrors will bluntly point out that the bottom two buttons on your shirt are screaming to be released, but what they don't point out is that the pint of ice cream you ate last night was to compensate for low self-esteem after an argument with a coworker earlier in the day.
And mirrors will let you know if your $200 tie is askew, but they won't let you know that you mistakenly believe that anyone who can't afford a $200 tie is unworthy of your time or attention.
Mirrors show us how we look but they don't show us who we are. That's why we need help.
My social work training was a great blessing for me. I was taught that in order to be helpful, in a counseling role, I needed to be self aware so that I understood my own issues. Otherwise, my issues would prevent me from being objective in response to my clients' issues and when that happened, we would both end up in a tangled mess of issues.
As a result, I'm aware that I'm self-centered, I talk too much, I'm quick to judge, I take things too personally, and I seek comfort in material things such as food, drink, TV and 20- year-old photos of Heather Locklear.
I am aware my issues.
Problem is, I don't always deal with them. That's why I need help. That's why we all need help. And the way we get help is through a mentor. We need mentors in our lives to help us untangle the mess that is our issues. And just for the record, we all have issues. Just saying.
In social work, we are encouraged to engage a mentor, or "supervisor," as a way to help us manage the work. And while this is common in the counseling professions, most other professions do not encourage it. Therefore, to reap the benefits, you may have to find a mentor on your own.
The source of our mentoring can come from a trusted friend, a spouse or significant other, a counselor, a spiritual leader, or a life coach. Any of these mentors can be valuable resources as long as they can give us the guidance we need. They can't just tell us what we want to hear. As one person said, "Good friends stab you in the front!"
Once we find a mentor, we should meet with him/her regularly as a way to develop a trusting relationship and to create consistency in how we address problems or concerns as well as the good things we're experiencing. And it is important to move past the superficial discussions and delve into the nitty gritty. In other words, we must be willing to go deep to gain the benefits of the mentoring. Beauty may only be skin deep but good mental health is found in the depth.
If you can see yourself as you truly are, rather than what you look like, you are much more likely to make positive changes in your life and to enjoy the richness that life has to offer. So, the next time you look in a mirror, pay attention to who you are rather than what you see. The reflection will be good for you.
For more by Ron Culberson, MSW, CSP, click here.
For more on conscious relationships, click here.
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