I ran across a little quip recently, and I can't remember exactly how it went or where I heard it, but this was the gist of it:
A beautiful woman looks in the mirror and thinks that her image in the mirror is her true self. An ugly woman looks in the mirror and knows that the image isn't her true self.
Feel free to revise that for pith.
Recently my husband said "Have you been sitting on my left side for three years so that I wouldn't see what you think is your bad side?" Yes, I answered, with not enough shame. I had to get him to marry me, after all. When I was a teenager, I realized that one side of my face was ever so subtly less pretty than the other side, so I started to make sure I put my best face forward, which meant turning my head a lot. Luckily the slightly more elegant half of my face is the "driver's side," so boys were more likely to see that side. I went back and forth between parting my hair on either side, sometimes wanting to prettily frame the good side and cover up the bad side, sometimes feeling like a bunch of hair on the bad side made it look even worse.
Sometimes I was conscious of this posturing, sometimes unconscious. For a while, I felt uncomfortable when I was driving someone else. All of this is pretty natural (I won't say healthy) for a girl to do. However, what I eventually realized was that I was not only offering my "good side" to others, I was favoring this side when I looked in the mirror. Even today I still turn my head slightly to the right so that I can see (this is so stupid) how I really look, because that other side is not me.
This is so dumb. I know it is dumb. But through habit I have really cultivated a certain mental image of myself, and it is disturbing when it is shattered by the truth. I imagine most people have had the unpleasant experience of seeing an awkward, candid picture of themselves. "Why did they take that when I wasn't looking? That's a really bad angle!" really means "Shit, I haven't been thinking of myself as fat, and now I have to revise my self-image." Revise it, or simply blame the camera man. "No, I really DON'T look like that." Yes, you do.
The badly-quoted-quip above stuck with me because I have been both the ugly girl and the pretty girl, and I imagine that you (whoever you are) have too. What I think is even more interesting, though, is that this is one of those pretty-hard-to-come-up-with examples of how self-love could lead you past the illusion and into the truth. The ugly girl has just as much self-love as the pretty girl. She isn't to be praised for her lack of superficiality, because she didn't have much going for her on that level anyway. She glances at store windows for less than a second, and then she moves on and accomplishes something. Then she'll feel the warm glow of self-satisfaction when men complement her on the elegance of her mind. It's a little closer to the truth of who she is, but she still got there through self-love. The pretty girl will drown in her own reflection, but the ugly girl's self-love will lead her away from the mirror.