Mairs and Grealy

Both Lucy Grealy’s and Nancy Mairs’ essays on self image and self realization were very powerful. I think we often overlook just how critical our self image is to our every day lives. I read Grealy’s essay in the South parking lot early monday morning. As soon as i stepped out of my car, I found myself looking at my reflection in the window and messing with my hair. I like to think I’m not a vain person, but it was almost subconscious. It was just second nature. As I walked to the bus stop I thought about Grealy’s essay and about how difficult it must have been to have that permanently negative self image, and how hard it it must have been to never look at her own reflection. I decided then, as somewhat of an experiment, to try and empathize with Grealy by not looking at my reflection for the rest of the day. I walked around campus for the remainder of the day, head down, avoiding any mildly tinted glass and mirrors. It was no easy task. It was then that I realized, just how straining a task it was to avoid myself. I never realized it before, but it was like a burning curiosity, just to take a peek. It’s not like it was even necessary, but the urge was always there. After putting myself in her shoes (to some degree), I was able to better sympathize with Grealy and her plight.

Additionally, I thought that Mairs’ essay was an interesting contrast to Grealy’s essay, mostly regarding her outlook on a negative self image. I’m in no way discrediting Grealy, especially because her situation was dissimilar in that she was inflicted at a very early age and was ridiculed through her most critical years of development, I do believe Grealy’s situation was worse. But in contrast to Grealy, Mairs’ expresses somewhat of a “good sport” attitude, at least on the surface. Such things as referring to herself as a “scurvy monster”, instead of “tiny Tim”. I think this outlook is a better way to go about an unfortunate physical infliction, such as Mairs’.

It’s no secret that self image effects our every day lives. But I think it’s the definition of self image that we often get confused. Self image should not be our perception of how the world sees us, it should be how we see ourselves. It is not physical. It is the impression we build of ourself over time, our dreams, our capabilities, all defined by events and our ability to overcome adversity and strengthen our self image, and ultimately ourselves, from within.


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