That should be the definition in the dictionary.
Mirrors are hung to accommodate people of average stature. This usually means I can’t see myself, or I can only see the top of my head. In some ways this is annoying, but in many others, I’m grateful.
This may sound weird, but I often forget I have dwarfism. I forget I look different from others. I mean, sure, the height difference comes into play throughout my day, but other than that I feel “normal.”
Until I look in a mirror.
When I look in a mirror, I don’t see ME, I see the shell that I live in. My body doesn’t represent my thoughts, interests, emotions, and the countless other things that make me different from every other person in the world. My reflection only shows the one glaring difference between me and most other people: my height. This is the first thing the world sees. This is quite honestly the last thing I think about.
Body image issues are rampant in today’s society, for both men and women. This is not a new issue, but one that’s been around for ages. There are countless marketing strategies targeted at people’s insecurities with their bodies – there’s a “fix-it” solution for everything. All these strategies promise to give me the body I’ve always wanted.
Unless you can make me taller, I’m calling you out on your lies, advertising campaigns.
Back to my issue with mirrors: I can go through my day feeling normal, happy, and positive about my life. However, as soon as I look in a mirror, I can’t help but notice the way dwarfism affects my body – my chubby, round face, the way my short arms hang awkwardly at my sides instead of gracefully like most people, and how my features and limbs are round and squishy, rather than slender and longer like I always imagine. I notice things like my large forehead, the scars left on my legs from previous surgeries, and my massive underbite. I notice all the ways my body differs from that of an average-statured person, especially the body-builders and exercise coaches in all the ads. When I see myself in the mirror, sometimes all thoughts of normalcy and positivity disappear.
I hate that mirrors have that kind of power.
I would much rather go through life seeing myself through the eyes of those who love me. Those who see me and choose not to treat me any differently for my dwarfism. Those who make me feel human, not abnormal. I’d prefer to go through life relying on my experiences, thoughts, and choices to define who I am, rather than the physical representation in a mirror. I have a mental picture in my head of the person I am – confident, kind, empathetic, determined, and beautiful in her own way. I would prefer to live as that person, and not be weighed down by the reflection staring back at me from a piece of glass.
While I can’t avoid every mirror in my life, I need to remember the mirror doesn’t define who I am. While it may show a physical body that is very different from others and has aspects that discourage me, it can also remind me to keep working on the person the mirror CAN’T see. I’m realizing that mental picture of me doesn’t have to be a dream, I can be all those things even in a body that stands at 3’8″. The mirror can’t show that person, but that doesn’t mean she’s not there.
I highly doubt I will ever like my reflection in the mirror, but I’m realizing that my outward appearance doesn’t have to define my inward perceptions of myself. I can’t change how dwarfism makes me look different, but I can change the impression I leave in the minds of others when they see me. I want others to see me for who I am on the inside, and I want to do the same for them.