Have you done that? Good. (And, you’re welcome.)
Now, let’s move on.
I was thinking the other day about a particular time when I pictured myself naked. (You didn’t know that Nate was short for Narcissus, did you?) Specifically, I was thinking of when I first noticed that I had gained weight. I mean the first time I really noticed. At that point, people had been teasing me for about a year, I think, and I acknowledged that I had a bit of flab; but it took looking at myself naked in the mirror and not quite recognizing the person I saw to really notice that I’d gained weight.
I remember it clearly, like a bad dream that haunts for years to come. I peeked into the mirror. A strange pudgy guy peered back at me. I gasped in surprise (and horror), whirling away from the mirror while while my hands clutched at my naughty bits (which, for the first time ever included my man boobs) hoping to hide them from view.
I felt naked. I already told you I was naked, but, I really felt naked in that moment. I was humiliated, horrified. Disgusted and dumbstruck. It wasn’t a good day for Nate.
Choking down a bit of bile that had sneaked into the back of my throat, I peered cautiously around the margin of the mirror’s frame. Crap! That same fat guy was staring back at me! I remember looking down on my belly – that fleshy shelf – and wondering how it got to be so big.
Despite the playful ribbing I received about my weight over the previous year and despite the fact that my pants size had increased during that time from a size 32 to a 38 (basically skipping 34 and 36 altogether!), I still thought of myself as merely having some “love handles” that I needed to work off. I didn’t exactly think I was buff, but I didn’t consider myself fat by any means. What a shock it was to realize those love handles had migrated, expanded and met in the middle. They say no man is an island, but I sure looked like one as I layed in the bathtub that night! A weeping, jiggling island. It was horrible.
I remember standing in front of the mirror for a long time after I determined that Mr. Chunk was actually my own reflection. I would like to tell you that I intoned a beautiful soliloquy to the man in the mirror about true beauty being on the inside; something about the nature of man, perhaps; about the eternal striving of id, ego, and reality; cogito ergo sum…something brainy and transcendant. Something that would make me seem much more secure than I truly am. Instead, I think I whimpered a bit more and then found solace in a bowl of ice cream. The point I took away from the experience (besides keep your clothes on when looking in the mirror!) was that who a person is and who he thinks he is can sometimes be different things and when those dichotomic views collide, it can be devastating.
But, it can also be wonderfully rewarding.
I have a theory that a person takes perdiodic snapshots of himself – of who he is, his being – and his self-image is established and updated (at least in part) by this series of snapshots. I believe that people are in a constant state of change. Whether it be our weight or our attitude, our political leanings or our hobbies, our hairstyle or our friendships – we change. Sometimes the change is immediately noticeable – a complete switching of direction – and sometimes the change is seen as merely a progression, an incremental change that is easy to overlook from moment to moment. The point is, we are not static beings. We are constantly changing, moving, progressing (or regressing).
You know when you’re on vacation and you try to cram a bunch of really sweet things into two weeks? It’s easy for those 14 days to fly by in a blur of activity, right? So, what do you do? You take snapshots, of course! Taking pictures is a way to freeze time. It’s a way to preserve memories. It’s also a way to reflect and process your emotions.
That’s what I mean by “taking snapshots”. We get so caught up in the movement of life sometimes that we fail to notice where that movement has carried us, how we have changed, who we have become (and/or are becoming). Life is full and it blurs past us without giving us time to take it all in. Too often, we lose touch with ourselves – the Self is the thing that we don’t take in. Theses periodic snapshots are a way of distilling the moment, crystallising who we are right now.
Think about visiting a friend that you haven’t seen in a long time. The first thing you notice is how they have changed. The first thing your friend notices is how you’ve changed. Have you ever had a friend point out something to you that you didn’t even notice about yourself? Maybe it’s how much weight you’ve lost or how tan you became over the summer. You tend not to notice those things because those changes are gradual. But, over time, the change is significant and very noticeable. That’s what I’m talking about! A snapshot forces you to see yourself outside the normal grind of life. It allows you to see the significance and scope of the changes in your life.
Why is this so important? Because we tend to act and make decisions from the perspective of our self-concept. How we see ourselves in the world influences the choices we make, and, when we make decisions based on something other than reality, we are bound to have less than satisfying results. Once I realized I was [ahem!] “rather portly”, I began to act differently. The snapshot I took of myself that dreadful day in front of the mirror forced me to consider the way I lived my life, the choices I made, the exercise I (wasn’t) engaged in. And it caused me to change in a way that was beneficial. Despite the initial horror at realizing that I am one of the obese you read about in newspapers, I’m healthier now because of it.
Taking a snapshot of yourself can be scary. It’s scary because we tend to enjoy the stability of stasis, we enjoy the comfort of the same. Taking snapshots leaves us open to change. It is the act of objective introspection. Once we see ourselves in a new light, it is very difficult to live our lives the same again. Either we spend our time trying to ignore the change and suffer the emptiness of what we now know is a life that is not quite our own, or we yield to reality and live our lives in accordance with it.
It’s not a very sophisticated or sexy (or scientific) theory and it probably won’t get me published in Psychology Today. (But, what if I called it the Sexy Naked Snapshot theory…? Freudians would eat that up, no?). Sexy or not, though, I believe there’s some truth to this theory.
A Question For You
What is something that has caused you to take a snapshot of your life lately? Do you feel you take enough snapshots, or do you wish there was a way to take them more frequently? I’d love to see your answers in the comments section below!
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