Shards of broken glass scattered on the floor

A guest blog by Aini Butt.

You seek validation from the mirror,
a forced smile to please its reflection.
Your tears blurring your vision,
a forceful flood thirsting for its affection.

You work tirelessly, pushing all your doubts and fears aside, towards that romanticised image – the perfect depiction of success and happiness. When you pause to reflect, whether that is by choice or a grinding halt forced upon you, holding your breath before you open your eyes and gaze upon your reflection in the mirror. It’s not what you had expected…

You see yourself as a failure when your mirror doesn’t show what you had envisaged. You close your eyes. As you open them again, you look at the mirror hoping that the forced smile will somehow make it all better. But you forget, that it is not a mirror’s job to entertain your desires; its reflection does not lie – and it will not lie to please you.

These are the struggles that we face when we have developed the ability to reflect, but the years of trauma do not allow us to practise self-compassion and accept our true reflection. Whether it be the result of generational curses, societal standards, toxic relationships, we hold ourselves and our image at ransom against unrealistic expectations.

One of these unattainable standards has been perfectionism, which I’m unlearning through my art. I have been trying different art media for a while now and have had some that turned out a lot better than expected. Despite the harsh criticism from within, they were seen as good enough attempts and deemed worthy of sharing with others.

Shards of an art piece scattered on the floor

These are the leftovers of an art piece I was working on. I tried something new and it didn’t work out; not being able to face this failure during an already difficult time, I didn’t have to think twice and it ended up in the bin.

Sat there at my desk still struggling to write in my journal, it dawned on me that I was still trying to escape those things that hadn’t gone to plan. In the process of this desire to discard any evidence of my failures, I was trying to escape the lessons. Maybe because I’m tired of the lessons and the hurt that comes with them – every time!

I took the art out of the bin and tried to rip it up. Yes, it was anger and frustration, but allowing this emotion to flow through my body was the only thing that was within my control, even if for a moment it seemed like I was losing it. When I realised that I couldn’t rip the Yupo paper, tears of frustration rolled down my cheeks. I grabbed the scissors and started cutting into the already-ruined art piece. When I had finally cut it into several pieces, I closed my eyes and sunk back into my chair. Looking at the pieces lying in front of me, the desk light shone its light on one of the smaller ones; the metallic gold shimmered, maybe even more so than when it was part of the whole picture.

All I could see was the glistening beauty of that small piece, which was part of my failure. In that moment, I forgot that I had failed to depict the image I’d had in my mind. I knew that going back to the same image was now impossible after cutting it into pieces. Even with the best efforts, I would not be able to recreate alcohol ink design in an identical way. I stuck the pieces into my journal and filled the gaps with gold foil.

Is that what we are meant to do when life breaks us apart and that desired reflection in the mirror is shattered into smithereens?

Sometimes we need to accept that the image we were working towards has been destroyed and it is only when we practise self-love and self-compassion that we will be able to see the glistening beauty of our shards.

I believe in helping people be the happiest, most effective and most authentic versions of themselves. Through my work as a teacher, coach and wellbeing expert, I nurture self-belief and self-awareness and remind you that not only are you not alone, but you have more control than you might imagine. You deserve, not just to survive, but to thrive.

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