How often do you see the real you?

Over the past week I spent four nights in LA, one night at my home in Wisconsin, and then two nights in Indianapolis. Each place had a bathroom and each bathroom had a mirror.

In the Los Angeles mirror, I looked like a zombie who had the immediate need or a dermatologist. In Indianapolis I didn’t look like a zombie, but I still looked in desperate need of a facial and some laser resurfacing. At home I was relieved to see that I looked pretty good. It was almost like being in a fun house where one mirror makes you tall and thin and the mirror around the corner makes you short and squat.

The fact is that my face didn’t change that much during the week. The only thing that changed was my point of view. And that was when I realized that I never see the real me -- there is always different lighting, different mirrors, different lenses -- a different perception.

Mirriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines perception as a concept -- a thought or notion conceived in the mind.

Clearly, perception is not fact, and we know that intellectually. But how many times do we make judgments and choices based on perception? How much time do we spend putting ourselves down because we’re looking at some twisted, fun-house-mirror’s point of view?

Are you too fat? Too thin? Too top heavy? Too bottom heavy? Is your hair too curly or too straight? Too coarse or too fine? Is your skin too pale, too red or too scarred? Are your eyes too close-set, too wide-set, too small or too big?

Most of us are our worst critic, so the list could go on and on. And my list didn’t stop at physical appearances. I was too slow, made too many mistakes, didn’t do enough, didn’t work hard enough, procrastinated too much, etc.

My constant self-judgment was a twisted perfectionist point of view. I continuously set myself up for failure, because all of my perceptions were based on an impossible standard.

Yet I was always trying to run from the feeling of failure by avoiding, isolating, procrastinating or even being a workaholic. Those behaviors left me impatient, frustrated and suffering from tension headaches and insomnia. My energy was sapped, and it became even more difficult to feel successful.

Ultimately my perfectionism lead to self-loathing.

So how did I smash my fun house mirror and feel self-acceptance and love? First I told my negative self-talking voice to take a hike.

Really now, what would you do if someone came up to you and started railing on you the way you rail on yourself? You’d probably tell them to shut up, and that’s exactly what I want you to do to yourself.

Anytime that negative self-talk starts, tell yourself, “Stop. This assault is unacceptable.”

I even hung up a picture of myself as a child. Every time the negative self-talk started, I’d picture that young self in my head and say, “I won’t let you talk to her that way.”

Then I began to shift my perception and focus on seeing myself through the eyes of a mother. If you didn’t have a stellar example of a mother, it will also work to just create the ideal in your head.

Your ideal mother would never call you too fat, too thin, too lazy, too slow, or too stupid. She would look at you with unconditional love, because she loved you before you were born. She loved you when all you could do was cry and make a mess in your diapers.

Your ideal mother would look at the adult you, and she would celebrate all the wonderful things that you do. She would see the skills, gifts and talent that only you bring to the world.

People who love you unconditionally, whether it’s a mother, friend or lover, will see things that the mirror doesn’t show -- the sparkle of your eyes, the way you light up when you talk to someone, the amazing sense of humor you have. They see the real you, and that list can go on-and-on, too!

On the drive home from Indianapolis, my husband played a song for me by American Idol finalist Kristy Lee Cook called “Like My Mother Does.”

“When I love! I give it all I got!
Like my mother does ...
When I feel weak, and un-pretty!
I know I'm beautiful and strong!
Because, I see myself,
Like my mother does!”

And that chorus brings it all home. Practice loving yourself unconditionally. Stop the assault of perception and perfection, and start seeing the beauty and strength of the real you.

Author's Bio: 

JJ Frederickson is a Certified Fearless Living Coach. She was formerly a newspaper reporter, local on-air personality and dance studio owner, where she spent 10 years teaching and mentoring hundreds of children of all ages. In 2005 she hired a Life Coach to balance motherhood and her career. The coaching experience completely transformed her life, and she's now a Life Coach with the mission of helping others bring ease into their homes ( and lives (