“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.”
― Virginia Woolf
When I first read this quote I found it all too true for me. I have always been a person who likes to observe life and the people around me and I have even dubbed myself a "people watcher." I sit in crowded places like coffee shops, airports or on public transportation during my commute and I find myself fascinated by the clothing people wear, the way they occupy themselves and their interactions with those around them. Yet what I have started to question is whether I am watching others to understand them or to see if they are curious about me?
For so many of us there is always this question of validation and we look for it in others around us, even those we have never met. The best complement is the one from a stranger, someone who has absolutely no reason to tell you that your skirt is cute or your necklace is gorgeous. There is no relationship to keep alive or cushion with complements; a simple admiration for what you have draped yourself in that goes no deeper than the stitching of your shirt. I have found this especially true for women who seem to me to be more apt to speak to strangers about the beauty they see in front of them, I am included in this category. I am that crazy woman who talks to people on the train or bus, in the coffee shop or airport and starts a conversation by complementing earrings, tattoos, shoes...anything really. The question is why do I do this?
I have thought in the past that I like to complement others because I was curious where they found their outer adornments; a work of reconnaissance to aid in my own style. Then I thought more and considered maybe I am the Good Samaritan of style, helping others feel good about their morning choices and nursing their self-confidence through a nice comment or two. Although these are sincere thoughts to why I complement others, the truth resides in my own desire to be desired. There is a reciprocity that I hope for as much as I hate to admit it; a sick curiosity and selfish thought that if I notice what they clothe themselves in, will they take notice of me?
When we look in the mirror before we leave for the day is it to see how we look or to see how others will see us? Changing an outfit over and over again because it is not what we want to wear or because we want to change the person who people will see when we walk out the door? I find that when I get ready to walk out the door I wonder what others will think of me and what they perceive from what I present in my appearance. I find that my mirror is not about what I see but wondering what others will see. I don't say to myself, "This dress makes me look fat", instead I wonder, "Will the people I cross paths with think that I look fat in this dress?" I worry that if I don't take friends with me when I buy clothing that I will make a wrong decision and so I try to see how I look through their eyes.
This is not easy to admit, but for me I have found after the ending of my relationship I have had a much harder time in being satisfied in my appearance. I believe that part of this uneasy nature is because for so long I had a pair of eyes that always saw me as beautiful with no question and never asking for change. Just a pure satisfaction in me. Now as a single woman I am trying to make my mirror in the morning about me and how I see myself, not how I wonder what others will think of me. Although this will be a difficult journey it is one I want to begin.
I do not want to find the best view of myself in anyone's eyes but my own.