I was widowed at a very young age (36), and I went through counseling to help me deal with the loss. After I’d worked my way through the most intense of the grief work, my trusty shrink and I began to talk about some family-of-origin issues.
One day during a session, I had this great epiphany: “I have a stubborn streak!” This was not stubborn-pigheaded, mind you, but stubborn-determined. Since I had not, up to that time, viewed myself as being particularly determined or forceful, I was very excited by this “discovery” of a previously unsuspected strength.
Since my family has always been one for celebrating achievements of all sorts, I called my sisters to share the news with them. “Hey, guess what? I’ve got a stubborn streak!”
Followed by raucous laughter.
Once everyone got themselves under control, the comments went something like this:
You’re just realizing that now? Honey, we’ve known that since you were an infant!
My father did not descend to this level. He just gave me an owlish, disbelieving stare. (Apparently I had rendered him temporarily speechless.)
I often reflect on this little interlude. On the one hand, I’m glad I learned about my stubbornness-determination for myself – you’ve gotta love that thrill of discovery! On the other hand, I realize that, had I been open to getting input from my family earlier, I might have been better able to use this awareness intentionally. I could have kept a look-out for inappropriate uses of this characteristic, just as I could have reminded myself during challenging times, when I was tempted to throw in the towel, that stubborn-determined people don’t give up so easily.
There’s no way we can always see ourselves clearly. After all, we’re inside our own skins – it’s impossible to look back at ourselves unless we have a mirror. That’s why it’s so important to have trusted resources we can rely on to reflect back to us things that we’re doing that may be counterproductive. It’s also wonderful to have someone whap us upside the head when we’re beating up on ourselves; when we’re focused on all the things we haven’t done, a good mirror will remind us of everything we’ve already accomplished.
What do you think? Have you had some eye-opening experiences with the mirrors in your life?
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