Self portraits are hard because we stare at our face all day but never really see it. We cover a spot here, add some color there, but we ignore the reality of shape, contour, weight, bone, glisten. Listen, listening to our whispered lies that we must look the way we’ve been told to look has only perverted our thoughts to not even know the measured proportions of our eyes and our noses. Our social structure and media production has structured our brains to produce an image so carved and so suctioned that we don’t look in the mirror for reality checks but to check on our list that we have these cog and piston traits we’ve been told are good. We check for a pink cheek, spotless skin, darkened eyelids, and little flagella eyebrows that we’ve moved from being strong beams of dark emphasis to lines traced on paper magazines we’ve been trying to copy. I’ve replaced my actual face with a mental blur that I try to ignore because I must be ugly. Yes, a mental blur shaped by statements in my youth that they never realized were being spoken with stone, carving commandments into my heart that only decades later I’d realize weren’t there from the beginning. Big nose, pocked skin, ugly, eh, not pretty, “unique”. I zoomed in on complimented traits… they were few. Blue, blue eyes and a cute smile. I took it and ran with it so that in all my paintings there was blue, a blue butterfly in fact, flitting around my canvas and cardboard in hopes that my beauty would emerge the same way. I though I must metamorphose from my young caterpillar stage into a fundamentally different being just to gain my own approval. Ha! Too long I’ve listened to the broken record of unintentional shortcomings in my head, too far I’ve broken myself down to record every minute detail of what I’ve eaten, put on my face, and lifted to get someone else’s nod of approval. Too many times I’ve tried to get my face on paper only to find that I’ve been trained to forget what it looks like when I glance away from the mirror. Too many hours passed in front of those same mirrors trying to solve what I thought was a problem.
I see pictures, I think I understand.
I trace them, it looks so utterly strange. “That can’t be what I look like!”
I must continue to confront myself with pen and paper.
I must establish an accurate mental image of myself for my sake.
I must know that the shapes and colors and textures on my face are objective. They cannot be assigned subjective qualities. I will no longer allow it. I will no longer wallow in an arbitrary pool of words that we just one day decided “should” exist.
No more. No more. No more.
I will look at myself, and I will see me.
Free to choose an alternative road.
What if instead of picking up tweezers, we picked up dignity?
What if instead of painting faces, we painted courage on our hearts?
What if instead of collecting powders, we collected knowledge?
What if instead of waxing skin, we waxed in joy?
What if instead of changing our appearance, we changed our attitude?
What if instead of freeing others to define us, we define ourselves as free?