Everyone wants to be the fairest of them all. Why ask that question except in the hope that you will see your reflection in that magical mirror?
Mirrors are just another way for people to be themselves — truly narcissistic.
Let’s look at that word, narcissistic. It comes from the classic story of Narcissus which, if you haven’t heard it, goes a bit like this:
Narcissus (whose name means self-admirer) is a very lucky man who’s well-endowed physically (but not so much in any other area). Echo, a nymph, falls in love with him, but, sadly, it is an unrequited love. So after he rejects her, she pines away until only her voice is left.
A boy also falls in love with Narcissus, but, alas, it was also (big surprise) an unrequited love. So, the boy prayed that Narcissus would fall in love with himself.
Since this all took place in the olden days, his wish was granted. Narcissus comes across a deep pool in a forest, and, as he takes a drink, he sees his reflection and falls in love with it. After pining away for a while, he realizes that the image in the pool is actually him, and then despair sets in.
He realizes that he can never act upon his love and kills himself. Then Echo comes around (we won’t ask how) and feels sorrow and pity (apparently his soul was sent to ‘the darkest hell’). This sorrow eventually causes the Narcissus flower to grow where he died. And that’s the way the story goes as the Romans tell it.
So why am I telling you this story? My point is this: Narcissus was a god to himself, and though we’re clearly meant see to him as bad, isn’t that the ultimate goal for us too? No one wants to admit it, but think!
Think about the self help section in the bookstore. The endless tips in beauty and health magazines. Plastic surgeries. Liposuction. Tummy tucks. Botox. Makeup. Fashion.
Even think about religion. The ultimate goal of Buddhists is to achieve nirvana, to transcend life. Christians try to be like God, follow the commandments, and try to sin as little as possible, be holy. This would apply to Muslims and Jews as well. To be as perfect as humanly possible. To be perfect.
Why look in the mirror but to fix that blemish? Why care about a new wardrobe except to better that image of yourself? We are constantly trying to improve ourselves, and for what? Why do we care about those things, unless … we’re unhappy with ourselves?
Today, you may refuse to admit that you’re swayed by the influence of a mirror, but think about modern day mirrors. Think about your Facebook account or, if you’re still 13, your MySpace account. What is that but a reflection of yourself to your peers?
Your profile page is a modern, high-tech version of a mirror. You are trying to create the perfect representation of yourself to project to others. Those jolly pictures, those nice profile pictures that nobody is sick of, I promise! And all your lovely friends and acquaintances: People you met for a second are now your friends on Facebook.
We are Narcissus. Throughout history, in religion and especially popular culture, our self-image has been, and remains, pertinent to how we view success. To be successful is to be who you are happy with, and to be happy is to try to improve ourselves and be as close to perfection as possible. Why would we strive for that A, for that award, that achievement, except to make ourselves look as attractive as possible?
Because what we portray to others, if it is a positive, desired outcome, is what we are to ourselves. If we didn’t have others reflect ourselves, then we couldn’t fully be ourselves. “What is the sound of one hand clapping”? Who are we, except what we are to others? We don’t want to just pine away and turn out like Echo, because Echo, ultimately, is nobody.
So, in the long run, I suppose we haven’t changed much since Narcissus. Oh, we’re not as obnoxious as he was, rejecting everyone and falling in love with himself. But we still try to be God by trying to be as attractive as humanly possible or as holy and perfect as we can be. But are we really becoming more perfect?
Maybe we’re just becoming addicted to the idea of being perfect, of constantly improving. It’s just a tactic advertisers use to get us to spend money, and it works because it appeals to our basic human nature. Fight that in yourself!
Next time, take a look at yourself in the mirror and make sure the person staring out is what you are and not just another gimmick for other people to see. Don’t put on so many layers of other people’s influence that all people see is a big blow up doll of an already over-inflated idea.
Become who you are.