When I first came across the image below, an internal shift occurred. It was the first time I reflected on what and who I actually saw when I looked in the mirror myself.
The journey of self-discovery, much like our reflection in a mirror, can show us not only who we are but who we believe ourselves to be. I LOVE this image of a house cat seeing its reflection as a mighty lion and I think it's a powerful metaphor for this internal struggle.
The funny thing about mirrors is they reflect not only who we are back to us, but also who we think we are. And sometimes these things don't match up.
The funny thing about who we think we are is that the foundation of our self image starts off being largely affected by the opinions, views, and expectations of caregivers, friends, and anyone else we sought approval from growing up. We learn at an early age to measure ourselves against the standards and expectations set by others, often subconsciously adopting these expectations as our own rulers for self-worth.
Then one day you're an adult and you look in the mirror and you're just not sure what you see, who you see, or who you actually are. For me, there was a critical moment in "adulthood" when my reflection seemed perplexing, leading me to question my identity.
That is the day I decided, okay self, we're going to remove the mask, all of these layers of imposed identity of who we should and should not be, what we should or should not be doing, and get down to the nitty gritty -- the essence of who we once were and who we can again strive to be. This was a chance to redefine my self-worth. A chance to both recognize my limitations and embrace my potential.
When I look in the mirror, I feel like the cat in the picture. I feel a great responsibility to be great, to be powerful, to be fearless. But also like the cat, I still internally believe that I am "just"a house cat, not necessarily the powerful lion looking back at me... yet.
This image reminds me of all of the times my mentors, friends, and family told me about my greatness, but I had a hard time believing them. Why are we taught to be so humble that it becomes hard to take (and believe) a compliment! Also, why are we so quick to believe, and hold on to, negative comments directed our way, but not as quick to receive the positive ones?
One of my favorite quotes is "A Lion does not concern himself with the opinion of sheep."
Can you tell I like cats? 😂
The danger of realizing our self-worth based on what other people think of us is real. Until we discover our own self worth and identity and use these discoveries to live a more authentic life, we will forever be confused about who we are and what we truly want. Don't let other people hold hostage your sense of worth. Seek to find your own measure of value, clear the haze, and see clearly the path ahead of you as the powerful and magical being you were born to be. You don't have to DO anything to be worthy, you simply are because you exist.
When looking at yourself in the mirror, the sense of responsibility to be powerful and fearless can be overwhelming. However, maintaining the discrepancy between your perception of yourself and reality, is a hurdle you'll have to face once you're ready to realize, recognize, and believe in your true potential.
It can be challenging to face the duality of knowing our humble reality, yet aspiring to the magnificence that is the lion's reflection. I know a lot of amazing, powerful, and fearless people, especially minoritized women, who don't see a lioness looking back at them in their reflection, who don't fully believe in their greatness, even though people remind them daily of their power.
For me, this image no longer serves as a question of my identity, but as an affirmation of my inner strength and potential. I hope this image encourages you to believe people when they say how great you are and how much they appreciate your impact on their life. I hope it encourages you to believe people when they tell you they are proud of you and that you are doing good in life. I hope it encourages you to believe in yourself a little more.
Because if you don't believe it, how will you achieve it?
So what's the play?
Recognize when your self-worth is tied to the opinions of others. This was needed when we were growing up to feel accepted, but not so much anymore.
Accept compliments with a simple "thank you" and a smile. No need to fish for a compliment to say back. No need to deflect or be self-deprecating in return.
Affirmations are powerful. Build them in to your daily routine and watch your mindset shift. "I am enough. I am love. I am worthy. I am safe." If no one's ever told you these things, now is your time to tell you these things.
The opinions of sheep really do not matter to a lion. Consider whether the expectations and values of others are in alignment with who you want to be before you listen to them. The source is important, and not every opinion needs to be internalized.
Seek opportunities to volunteer, mentor, or help others. Seeing the impact we have on others brings us closer to realizing our value and self-worth.
Spend more time with people who see the lion in you, even when you feel like the house cat.
Believing in your own greatness doesn't make you egotistical or narcissistic; it makes you more aware of your inherent worth and the unique contributions you make to the world. It's about seeing the lion in your reflection and embracing it.