I just read this great creative nonfiction essay by Lucy Grealy called Mirrorings. For those of you unfamiliar with this essay, the narrator Lucy discusses her battle with jaw cancer (not too sure of the technical name) and her lifetime of surgeries to make her face look “normal”. While her circumstance is unusual, I think it is something we all struggle with during our lifetime. We all look outside ourselves for the definition of ourselves.

In Grealy’s piece, she makes the point of telling the reader people in books and movies only accept they are dead when they can no longer see their reflection in a mirror. She is absolutely correct. Whether it is a mirror or another person’s eye, the only way people define themselves is through the images reflected back at them. She spent almost a year of her life not looking in a mirror. While she still allowed others to make her see herself as a freak, she stopped letting herself look in the mirror to see what everyone told her she should see. Because of that, Grealy was able to really learn and understand herself. As the piece ends, Grealy is sitting in a café having tea with a great looking man. Normally she will look into another’s eyes and see the horror of her disfigured face. This time, she only sees positive thoughts and images. So, she bravely looks at her reflection and wonders if she can finally see the good things this man sees.

I am a big victim of this theory. How many times have I thought if this one person loved me, then I must be lovable? I can’t count how many times I let people tell me what I should and should not be doing. Oh, you think I should have this career? Then I must have it because you see me better than I see myself. Oh, I shouldn’t move to that state? You’re right; I should stay here because only you understand me.

I always see things in extremes. It is either this way or that and there is never an in between. But, I am learning to not do this anymore.

Like Grealy, I am learning to look at myself on the inside. What are the things people rarely see? What are the things I want for myself and my life?

I’ll be honest; this is not an easy task. Many people are annoyed with me because I am not the person they thought I was when I first met them. However, I can’t help that anymore. I am defining myself now. While I led people to believe I was one way (Grealy said it best when she wrote she pretended nothing was wrong and people thought she was so brave), I have come to the point in my life where I can’t buy into a life I didn’t create for myself anymore.

I am what I am and now only I get to define what that means.