Mirror, Mirror...

Fairy tales often are life lessons sprinkled in glitter. So in Snow White when you see a gorgeous queen going to a mirror to ask it who "the fairest of them all" is-- the takeaway is that people need validation.

Even the beautiful ones.

But what does it mean to be validated? One of the primary definitions of validation is this: the act of checking or proving the validity of something.

The Queen, before she even asked the mirror her famous question, already knew the answer. The mirror simply validated her already existing belief about herself.

But lately I've begun to wonder, what if you aren't seeing yourself clearly? Or what if the mirror has been lying to you? 

You break the mirror.

It was in the spirit of "breaking the mirror" that I made two decisions I would not normally make. First, ahead of the IAAF Diamond League competition in Rome I'd actually be a tourist for a little while. Second, I would hire a photographer through a cool travel photography company called Shoot My Travel, to capture some of my touristy moments.

I met my photographer Dmitry at Trevi Fountain at 8am. I was content listening to the water flow over the rocks and sculptures. Rome was awakening, souvenir carts were being set up, street cafes were setting up their outdoor tables and it was early enough that there weren't many tourists at the fountain yet so Dmitry wanted to jump right in. 

"Go stand down there" he directed me and I walked shyly to the fountain's edge. "Now, pose. You know like romantic...ooo la la?"

Ooo La La...

So see...this moment is exactly why I arranged this. My inner critic was telling me that I was a nobody, my inner mean girl was asking me who I thought I was to basically be having a photo shoot in Rome. She went on to tell me that I wasn't that type of girl anyway, not beautiful, not soft, not graceful. 

But she is not me.

She's a side effect, a lingering glare or reflection of the mirror I had broken. I knew that scheduling this photo tour would bring her out of hiding, it would force me to face her and show her that her opinions of me would not be validated.

I soldiered through, pose after pose. Completely losing my composure in spontaneous fits of giggles at times.

Other tourists gathered around to watch Dmitry and I work, the photographer and his awkward model. Women would stop to tell me how beautiful I was, men would stare, others yelled canned lines like, "you are a beautiful flower" in our general direction but didn't interfere with the shoot.

I loosened up a little, I got a little more comfortable I went from thinking "maybe I am or can be beautiful" to "I am beautiful." I went from hoping we'd capture a few good shots to looking forward to seeing every shot because they were all simply, me.

I began to see myself a little more clearly. It's an ongoing process, but this experience really propelled me forward in this journey. I wanted to find myself but I know now I was never lost, just blind.

A blind girl with a mirror. A mirror that could tell her anything because she couldn't see for herself.

I broke the mirror, so that I'd be forced to validate myself. We took over 600 shots that morning in Rome, and every click of Dmitry's shutter represented me chipping away at that nagging inner critic.

The following day was the competition I didn't run fast or place high and for the first time I was okay with it. Not content (I will never be content with losing) but confident, because even through a disappointing result such as that one I was seeing myself clearly. And I knew exactly what to do next.

The true me showed herself, and this time I saw her.

nick steadman