Mirror, Mirror!

I wasn’t a Disney princess kind of girl, but one of my granddaughters loves everything Disney. I bought all the story books just to read them to her. The one that always stood out in my mind was Snow White. I love the part where the evil queen looks in the magic mirror every day asking the same question, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all.” Later I associated Michael Jackson’s song, Man in the Mirror, with the same general idea. “I’m looking at the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways.” It makes sense to me that we all need to talk to our reflection in the mirror from time to time.

Those of you who have been following me for a while know how big I am on introspection. According to Merriam-Webster introspection is “a reflective looking inward; an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings.” I like this definition because it’s simple. Introspection requires looking on the inside to see what’s true and what’s real regardless of the facade you may show on the outside. That’s what so fascinating about the evil queen in the Snow-White story. She was beautiful on the outside and she considered that to be enough, but she was ugly and mean spirited on the inside. The mirror said Snow White was the fairest because she was beautiful inside as well as outside. The evil queen couldn’t come close to the beautiful character traits of Snow White. Nor could she initiate the love and affection that came Snow White’s way. People and animals were drawn to Snow White’s inner beauty.

What do we see when we look in the mirror? Do we see only the outside and forget all about what’s on the inside? It may be harder than you think to examine your true self. Sometimes rather than examining our own thoughts and feelings, we make comparisons. We say things like “I’m doing better than so-and-so,” or “At least I’m not as bad as so-and-so.” This is not true introspection. This may be more closely related to compromise or denial. It may also point to the influencers in our life whether from associations or social media. Like the wicked queen, we may be satisfied with the responses we receive as long as they agree with how we feel. What do we do when the answer is honest and painful? Do we change or do we turn on the one who had the nerve to tell us the truth? This is the problem many of our teenagers are having, discerning and understanding what’s really true.

I was subbing at a school a few weeks back and I was somewhat surprised to see how much the students were into their outward appearance: fabulous fake nails of every color, false eyelashes that looked like slain caterpillars, multicolored synthetic and human hair, and color coordinate crocks, leggings, jeggings, and jeans galore with and without prefab holes; name brand sneakers, slogan shirts, and tats. (Why did I think you had to be 18 or older to get a tattoo?) Add to that cell phones, ear buds, and I-watches. I was shocked at the amount of money invested in the outward appearance of the students. I was also a little dismayed by some of their behaviors and language. What’s wrong with being fashionable and smart, handsome and kind, stylist and articulate? Is there anything wrong with showing off your intellect and character?

I asked one young lady if she had a role model for her style and her answer floored me. She said, “Not really, I just dress to fit in.” I asked her if she had a career path in mind and she said, “Not really I’ll probably just get a regular job. I found out later that a regular job is at a store or something. The teacher in me continued to look at this child hoping for a glimpse of her soul. Finally, there it was, the true prodigy. As we began talking about communication and speech techniques in class, I brought up the style of spoken word poets. She lit up. She was animated, smiling, and contributing to the discussion with enthusiasm. Turns out she considered herself a poet. She even shared one of her poems with the class, a true spoken word poet. I wish I could have videoed that moment. It would have been great for her parents and her other teachers to see the true character of this young lady. She was anything but nonresponsive and nonchalant. It would be even better if she could see herself – talented, gifted, valuable, able to contribute to her academic community.

It may sound old fashion, but our kids need positive role models and mentors. They need an opportunity to see a potential reflection of themselves at a later time in life. Their peers and social media are not enough to foster the hope and possibilities of future successes. They need to hear the truth and importance of character, and intelligence. They need to know that they can be great and accomplish their dreams with hard work and perseverance before they become old and jaded like the evil queen. Like the community of dwarfs, we must protect and watch over our youth until they reach their true destiny as princesses and princes before the evil of this world can destroy them. Wow, I know that sounds over the top, but I see teenagers who feel hopeless, depressed, unseen, and alone every week. They need to be affirmed. They need to be assured. They need to feel useful and valued and seen. When they look into our faces, they need to see faith in their abilities and their dreams reflected back to them.

I’m looking at myself in the mirror and I’m realizing how many people invested in my outcome; how many times I questioned myself and heard from them that I could make it, I could do it. Snow White never knew that the mirror said she was the fairest of all. She would have been content to live as the housekeeper of the seven dwarfs for the rest of her life, but the evil queen was determined to destroy her. We must identify the wicked enemies of our children, the predators, the naysayers, the liars who espouse shortcuts and self-medicating, the carrot danglers – all those who will discourage or dissuade the progress of our youth. We must be the counterpoint to all that is negative so that each one of our children will reach their full potential and claim their rich inheritance. They aren’t in Disneyworld; they are here in the real world with us and it’s up to us to tell them what’s really important, and what’s really true. Hard work, character, and intelligence are the catalyst for success. “Mirror, Mirror on the wall,” tell your children they are the fairest, the best, and the worthy before it’s too late.

Be safe. Be proactive. Be a role model. Be involved.

Brandon is the first spoken word poet to compete on AGT and to receive the Golden Buzzer award in the first round, going on to win the entire competition! Amazon