"Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all." Taken from the childhood tale of vanity known as Snow White, this well-known phrase rolls off the tongue so marvelously.

Hubris and envy are certainly not some secret Achilles heel of the human race. In fact, they are maladies from which we all suffer. We all desire to be worshiped. Some say "liked" or "loved" but the fact is we want to be adored as smart, beautiful, funny, compassionate, bohemian or whatever.

The story of Snow White is above all a tale of vanity and jealous desire, our corrupted lust for the destruction of those better than us, especially when we realize we cannot rise to their level. So, when the Queen finds she's no longer the most beautiful, she tries to kill Snow White and thus regain the crown.

I know how the Queen feels, especially as an author, because, like the Queen, an author is "in the public eye." It is very gratifying to hear someone say that they've enjoyed something I've penned, that my writing has made them see things in a different light, or that a particular scene gave them an adrenaline rush.

The truth is I love to read reviews both public and private which stroke my ego. Who doesn't? We all want to look at ourselves and see something beautiful, something worthwhile, something good.

The mirror we most often judge ourselves by is not the one on the bathroom wall, but the people who reflect back to us what they see.

The feedback we get from others can have a profound impact on our own self-perception. It is also extremely important because we may have huge blind spots and others can help point those out. But, the "mirrors" around us, i.e. the friends, colleagues and family members we interact with may not always be as "faithful" as our bathroom mirror.

Allow me to illustrate with a trite example. I remember someone saying a couple of years ago, "I'd never want to work for you." It was said offhandedly in the context of running a company and without any explanation. I'm not sure how it was intended, but it felt liked I'd just been slapped in the face. What's strange is that the person making the comment has never seen any of my interaction with my colleagues nor does he know anything about how I run the business. Yet, still it stung.

In fact, the statement made such an impact on me that I often reflected on how he had formed this opinion. Yes, I am a "driver", someone who has high expectations from others and myself. I don't accept excuses and demand results. I'm sure this is the part of my personality that prompted his comment. Add to this the fact that all of my conversation about the business was related to my frustration with the problems I faced and it is easy to see how he formed such an opinion.

Of course, people who have worked with me for over a decade would clearly disagree with his assessment and do it based on a better understanding of who I am. I take some solace in that, but the statement still stung, not because it was necessarily a reflection of who I am, but of who I am perceived to be. And sadly that is sometimes more important to us.

One of the ironies of the human experience is that very few people actually know each other well enough to understand their fellow man on anything but a superficial level. My point is that much of the criticism we receive will come from people with this same superficial understanding of who we are, and so should not be taken too seriously.

The mirror in the story of Snow White could not lie. Not only did it reflect the Queen's physical appearance faithfully, but it answered her questions honestly. It is my hope that you are affirmed by the people you meet, but more importantly that you strive to be a faithful "mirror" to others. If we want to be the sort of friend who reflects back a true image, we will have to take the time to truly understand them.
 


Comments

10/01/2013 03:09

Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.

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