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A New Year - A New You?

Updated on January 2, 2014

I will never forget one of the assignments I received in my middle school art class. We were asked to do a self-portrait. I can remember spending a great deal of time looking at myself in the mirror as I prepared for this assignment. I know that may sound a bit narcissistic, but I would spend long periods of time studying the details of my face - the lines, the curves, even the blemishes. Perhaps, this wasn't such a good assignment for self-conscious middle-schoolers - many of whom already had poor self-images. But our second assignment was equally disturbing. Our teacher had us study our self-portraits and then asked, “If there was something we could change about our appearance what would it be?” We were to draw what we wished we looked like. I can remember thinking to myself, “What kind of demented assignment is this?” But, nonetheless, for the sake a grade I took part in the project and I remember changing my ears and my nose. When I was younger, my ears and nose were not proportional to my face. They were noticeably larger. Thankfully, though, I have grown into my ears and nose, and they don’t look quite a big as they used to.

The fact is, most of us, when we look in the mirror, find at least one thing we would like to change about our appearance. Perhaps, we wish we were a little skinnier, or maybe a lot skinnier. Maybe we would like to have a little more hair or a few less wrinkles, a smaller nose, or prettier teeth. Undeniably, we all have something we wish we could change about us physically.

Ours is a culture in which youth is idolized and physical beauty is worshiped. In marketing we are told that appearance is everything! Now obviously, there is nothing wrong with enhancing our physical appearance. We should want to look our best, this is important when it comes to our self-esteem.

But what about our true selves? Not only our physical appearance, but our character, behaviors, personalities, attitudes, addictions and vices? The things that often make up who we are or the way people perceive us.

In the fairy tale of Snow White the queen had a magical reflecting glass that looked beyond the outer appearance and could see the true character of a person. This mirror reflected the truth. What if we were to gaze into this mirror? What would we see or hear about ourselves? Probably, most of us would not want to look into such a mirror for fear of what we might see.

I have so much I want to change about myself. I endeavor to be a better person - more loving, caring, giving, patient, and the list could go on and on. I have vices I want to break. But I also realize that these are constant endeavors. These are things that I can't simply resolve to do with the changing of a year. They are lifelong endeavors. It is a constant struggle met with successes and failures.

Having the desire to change is a good thing! Whether or not we ever truly make the change is beside the point. The simple fact that each year we make resolutions, shows that we have within us the desire to change and be a better person. While most of our "resolutions" are selfish or vain, such as losing weight, getting in better shape, quite smoking or drinking. They still are undeniably changes we want to make to better ourselves and our health. While this change is selfish, it is still change. And perhaps this change can seep into us deeper and plant within us a desire to change from within.

One of the Greek words for "change" is metamorphoo, which is where the word "metamorphosis" comes from - a change from within or a change from the inside out.

The human nature is selfish and rebellious. But we are also driven socially and morally to better persons. This is what prevents us from doing whatever we want, whenever we want. There are consequences to our actions and behaviors. We have an obligation not only to ourselves but to others. These should prompt us to be better persons.

It wasn't until years later that I realized the purpose of that art assignment. It wasn't so much an assignment to make us wish we looked different, as it was an assignment that invited us to see who we can be if we only imagine.

Sure, we may not always like what we see when we look into the mirror, but what about the mirror that peers deeper? This mirror should prompt within us change - a metamorphoo to be a better person for ourselves and for others. But such a transformation is a journey of stepping stones. Let's make this journey together!

"If we don't change, we don't grow! If we don't grow, we aren't really living." - Gail Sheehy


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