Have you seen the recent reports about how selfies distort your face and make your nose look bigger? “Researchers now are cautioning that patients interested in cosmetic procedures should not turn to self-photographs as guidance when considering making changes to their faces,” says a recent CNN article. Even before selfies, I noticed a tendency in almost everyone I know to look at a photo and zoom in to identify our own flaws to the exclusion of anything positive in the frame. (My right eye, seriously, IS a lot squintier than my left, by the way.) And so there is now some evidence to suggest that a look at our own selfie pictures is creating even more opportunities for self-criticism, leading more of us to undergo elective SURGERY. Crazy, right?
I’ve been reading lately about the value of reflecting to help us improve our teaching practice, and I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the distorted selfie pictures and the way my own reflecting usually goes. I am all for productive reflection. For example, I bet that if you are a secondary teacher, you usually feel like the 5th period’s lesson is significantly better than the one you tried in 1st period. That’s because you thought about what could have gone better, realized where and how you needed to be more clear, and made adjustments based on those reflections. A few days ago, I was tweaking a presentation just minutes before I was about to begin it. The teacher near me observed what I was doing and said, “Yep, that’s being a teacher.” I guess most educators are just built that way. Productive reflection that helps us improve our lesson delivery is a good thing, of course.
But sometimes I feel like my self-reflection goes too far, or at least it goes too far in the wrong direction. I find myself reflecting about things I am long past being able to control or change. You may know what I’m talking about: that kid I wish I’d been a little nicer to. The parent conference from early in my career where I surely offended someone with my know-it-all suggestions. A horrifying memory of the way I spoke to a co-worker. The endless litany of the ways I screwed up as a mother, and the crushing knowledge that there are no do-overs.
It’s like there is a very accomplished chorus of Mean Girls in my head, eager to point out to me every shortcoming and flaw I’ve ever had and every regrettable thing I’ve ever said or done. And I not only listen to them, I seem to invite them in and then turn up the volume. If only I hadn’t been so strict and controlling. If only I had listened more. If only I had acted with just a little more love & compassion. If only I had been less harsh and more helpful; less critical and more compassionate. If only…if only…if only…
“You can be forgiven for not being perfect” is something I read a few weeks ago, and I’ve been trying to remember to say this to myself when my brain goes on autopilot to all the memories I harbor where I wish I’d behaved differently. I’m often much quicker to forgive others – or to encourage others to forgive themselves – than I am to forgive my own flaws.
I’m guessing that you’d be surprised at how routinely I torture myself with these “wish I had” and “should have done” memories. I’m assuming that I don’t look nearly as obsessive and flawed from the outside. So I gotta wonder, do any of you do this, too? Like me, are your selfie memories maybe a little distorted? Because just so you know, from my perspective, you all look great. From my vantage point, your nose looks just fine, and you are beautiful.