I don’t own any full-length mirrors.
That’s not a conscious, deliberate choice or anything. I don’t own lots of stuff. It’s just one of those things that never worked its way into my house.
But as a result of that, I’m usually pretty unfamiliar with how I look. I obviously have a bathroom mirror for shaving and combing my hair and such, so I don’t leave the house looking like a disheveled mess. But since my style of dress is very basic and utilitarian, I never need to check how an outfit looks or anything.
So every once in a while I’ll walk by something reflective enough to get a full-body glimpse of myself (or maybe I’ll see a rare picture of myself taken by someone else) and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised. I’ve been losing a lot of weight for health reasons, but a nice side effect is looking better. But since I don’t make a big habit of looking at myself a lot, when I catch that glimpse it’s a nice surprise.
That happens in other ways, too. If you try to stay relentless about self-improvement (and I do), but you also are doing it for the sake of genuine mental health and not vanity, you might not spend a lot of time looking at the results. You can catch a glimpse sometimes, and be surprised.
When I hit 100 posts on this blog, that was a glimpse. I wasn’t counting before that, and I only knew because the site sent me a little notification saying “congrats!” I was just writing to write – to think better. But suddenly here was this nice side effect of a decent backlog of posts I could look at.
This is a good technique, I think. Goals come slowly, over time. So if you look at them every day – well, a watched pot never boils, right? You can get discouraged because on a day-to-day basis, nothing visible might have changed. If I weighed myself today and then again tomorrow, I’d weigh the same even if I felt like I’d done a lot of work, so that’s discouraging. Instead, I only weigh myself every other week or so, because then I know there will have been a change as long as I’ve been staying disciplined about the action goals.
Sometimes someone will pay you a compliment about your work, and you’ll suddenly realize, “wow, I am actually good at my job – all the work I’ve put in is paying off.” Or you’ll see a smile on someone’s face that’s been going through a rough time while you’ve supported them, and you’ll realize that you really did make a difference after all the tears. Sometimes you’ll catch a glimpse of yourself in the good you put into the world and into yourself, and when that happens, treasure it.