Mirror reflection in the water, as a hand touches the surface of some water.
Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

Our mirror fails to reflect more than we realize. That’s not because the mirror is broken, but because we don’t treat it the way we should. These posts are called reflections, so you can see that it is an important topic to me. It wasn’t something I used to do before, to reflect. This prevented me to learn from what was happening around me and I kept on judging others. My mirror showed me what the world wanted, instead of my own life. Once I learned that my focus should’ve been on me, my life changed in a big way.

In the book by Shannon Lee; Be Water, My friend, we can find Bruce Lee’s words on this topic. He discussed The Sparring Partner, the relationship with people around you. I’d like to expand that to our relationship with the world.

“Relationship is a process of self-revelation. Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself – to be is to be related.”

Bruce Lee, Be Water, My Friend, chapter 4, The Sparring partner

The mirror is found everywhere

Together we will acknowledge our mirror, put it into focus and find our reflection. If we manage to do that, we can take our first steps to a more peaceful and happy life. If we learn to embrace our mirror, we can embrace ourselves. This leads to living a virtuous life because there is no need to hide anymore. But what is this mirror?

The mirror is found everywhere. In the people we encounter, the world around us, and in the entire universe. The energy we send out is what we get back. As I was walking my sister’s dog earlier today, I realized that something was off. She wasn’t acting any different, yet the walk didn’t feel like the day before. One day earlier I was running with her and throwing a stick. It was an enjoyable walk and I was taking in all the surroundings. Today that mood was gone. She wanted to run and do all the things she did the day before. Yet I wasn’t feeling it and so to me, the dog wasn’t behaving normally. Then I realized this wasn’t the dog’s fault, it was mine.

Your mind must be open to it

We can find examples of these reflections all around us. If we see someone jumping a queue, we can become annoyed by it. That’s because to us this is not proper behavior. And is it also bad if we do it ourselves? If the other drivers on the road appear to be too chaotic or slow. What does that say about our mood? How does the world look when you’re calm or happy? Doesn’t it shine a lot more then? These are some examples of the reflection we can receive from the world. If used properly, they can help us grow.

It all begins with the acceptance of the mirror. This might be a bit overwhelming because it is everywhere. Bruce Lee talked about relationships, which are all around us. We are related to other people, but also to society and nature. Every one of those connections shows us something about ourselves. To see this and put it in its proper place we must acknowledge that it is there. Look for it, feel it, but your mind must be open to it. Marcus Aurelius gives us three relationships in his Meditations. Listen to what they tell you. Not about externals, but about yourself.

“Three relationships

i. with the body you inhabit

ii. with the divine, the cause of everyting in all things

iii. with the people around you

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, book 8.27

We must learn to set the best example

The best mirrors are our actions and how we deal with life. When things go well, it is easier to be happy and cheerful. This allows us to hide many of the sides we need to work on. But when adversity hits, we have to call on all our resources. Some of them might not be in accordance with the virtuous life we have in mind. They might make us feel proud or feel depressed after the event. But that’s all because we got to see a glimpse of who we are during stressful times. Here is Epictetus telling us the same.

“Difficulties are the things that show what men are.”

Epictetus, The Discourses, Book One, Chapter 24.1

We can tell a lot by our wants and desires. If we see ourselves as poor, we can learn about our relationship with money. It might be enough, but if the mirror shows us the life of others, we can get the idea that we need more. It shows us traits we subconsciously recognize in ourselves as ones we wish to improve. Or we perceive that we aren’t in our rightful place in the world. But this is under our control and we can change this perception. We can also adjust the behavior in ourselves that we don’t like when we see it in others. First, we must ask if we never display the same things. Then we must learn to set the best example. 

“People exist for one another. You can instruct or endure them.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 8.59

We are looking at ourselves

We can instruct them by showing them how one should live a virtuous life. When we do, we will see that this behavior comes back to us by the people around us and our environment will show it. This is the moment that we can be at peace with our reflection.

But how do we get to that stage? The first two steps have been taken. We know what the mirror is and we have acknowledged that it is there. Where do we go from here? Now it is time to make sure we see a clear image. To do that, we need to have our focus right. Where does the reflection come from? Where is the surface of the mirror? Sometimes it is closer, sometimes we must look a bit deeper. But we must remind ourselves that we are looking at ourselves. If we look beyond, then we’ll start judging. We’ve seen that this leads to criticism. We need to be careful with this and it must come from a good place if expressed.

Calm and Peaceful

Once we have the right focus, we need to make sure the image is still. All our mirrors move, thus we need to find that stillness within ourselves. We need to find our peace. The more we learn from what the world tries to teach us, the easier it gets to listen, observe, and be calm. During that second walk with Ioanna, the dog, I realized that it wasn’t her, but it was me who was uneasy.

Big tree in the woods, portaying calm.
Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

There in the woods, I stopped, as she was being her playful self digging for something. I looked up, turned around, and felt the woods to be the center of peace and quiet. My turbulence came from some worries and doubts, but they were there on the surface. Once I started looking around, they disappeared. The forest, and that little dog, showed me what I needed to see. To remind me of how I want to be as a person. Calm and peaceful.

“Self-reliance, always. And cheerfulness.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 1.16

Make our mirror show a clear reflection

How Our Mirror Fails to Reflect
How our Mirror Fails to ReflectPhoto by Randy Jacob on Unsplash

Now we are receiving a clear picture from our mirror. But why is this important, why am I dedicating an entire post to this? My goal is to live a peaceful and virtuous good life. But I don’t want this only for myself. The reason for me to start this blog was to share my journey in the hope that it might help you in one way or another. I see this as a big step toward that goal. What we read throughout Stoicism and other major philosophies, is that it all starts with knowing ourselves. Being able to reflect on our behavior and the world around us is the best way to start. Let’s not have a mirror that fails to reflect but use it for its rightful purpose. To grow and improve ourselves toward that better life.

“For it is you who know yourself, and what value you set upon yourself, and at what rate you sell yourself.”

Epictetus, The Discourses, Book One, Chapter 2.11
How Our Mirror Fails to Reflect
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20 thoughts on “How Our Mirror Fails to Reflect

  • 3 September 2022 at 14:45
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    What an insightful, interesting and informative post. All the ‘ins’ actually! This reminds me of your previous post about criticism, and the something I read that criticism and judgement is a reflection of the person making it more than the person receiving it. This thought has helped me to reduce my judgements and see it as a reflection of my mood, and what I am attracting. Of course we get angry at times, and frustrated, but, as the lesson here is, being aware of yourself and being open to relfection helps to reduce the stress that such an emotion causes. Eudaimonia is what Stoics strived for, which sort of translates at happiness and they say comes from wisdom and virtue. I am leaning more and more to their way of thinkiing, and allowing myself the freedom to see this world through a new vision of love…and a hint of madness. Thank you as ever for such an uplifting post.

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    • 4 September 2022 at 13:28
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      Thank you for this wonderful comment, Zac. It’s great to see that you can get so much out of this. I started writing these reflections for myself, but sharing them and seeing that others get something out of it is amazing to see. I loved how you described it and gave your views on it. That’s why the comment section is great, to have that interaction. Great to see your interest in Stoicism. Again, thanks for taking the time to read it and leaving a comment.

      Reply
  • 4 September 2022 at 02:34
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    This post is a very interesting perspective on self-care. “The more we learn from what the world tries to teach us, the easier it gets to listen, observe, and be calm,” is such a powerful statement. Finding our inner peace is more important now than ever.

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    • 4 September 2022 at 13:29
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      Thank for your comment. Finner inner peace is key to seeing the beauty and peace around you. It’s great to see you highlighting that statement. Iloved that one myself as well.

      Reply
  • 4 September 2022 at 10:23
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    Such a great post Benny. It’s so important to look within and see your part in it, but this is difficult to do at times. Lately, when my kids have been playing up, I’ve thought about what energy I’m giving off. I guess I sometimes give off a nervous energy, which causes them to react. Something I need to work on. Great post, thanks for sharing. Jade MumLifeandMe

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    • 4 September 2022 at 13:31
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      Great to read your views and perspective on this. With kids there must be other dynamics at play, but it is great to see that you can also look for that giving and receiving there. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  • 4 September 2022 at 14:54
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    I agree with you. We need to set a great example for others and be the best version of ourselves. This is informative. Thank you for sharing!

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    • 5 September 2022 at 15:35
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      Bruce Lee’s words reminds me of six degrees of separation, which states were all connected by a maximum of six social connections.

      I think I know myself a little too well, which can be part of the problem. A little ignorance about myself might actually make my life easier.

      One thing I learnt about money recently, is that I need to earn a ridiculous amount above the national average if I ever want to own my own home. Which sucks, as I’ve never cared about money, but having my own place would provide security I’ve never had before

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      • 9 September 2022 at 17:25
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        Thank you for sharing your insights and opinions. That quote by Bruce Lee also made me think of the 6 degrees, great that you brought that up.
        How far we should know ourselves is something personal, as most things are. For me, I’d like to know myself as much as I can and then accept it for what it is. But that’s me. I respect your view on it and that makes me reflect a bit as well.
        The home buying situation is not good at the moment, nowhere. I hope you’ll be able to find something at one point, because I understand the feeling of security. I’m not looking for a home yet, because I have trouble settling somewhere.

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    • 9 September 2022 at 17:21
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      Thank you for your comment. It is all about growing and improving and if we can help people along the way, that’s amazing.

      Reply
  • 5 September 2022 at 19:58
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    When you talked about your sisters dog + the walk, I instantly thought of my energy the other day when I asked someone close to me, “Are you ok? You seem different.” It wasn’t them being different but me. The day before, things were great but then, my energy was funky because I had things on my mind. This opened my mind up to the mirrors around me + what they’re teaching me. Thank you for this.

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    • 9 September 2022 at 17:26
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      Thank you for this great comment and showing me that my content has helped someone. It really is amazing to read this. Thanks!

      Reply
  • 5 September 2022 at 23:30
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    This is one of my favourite teachings/concepts and you went about it so clearly. It’s interesting to see how it is approached from a stoic lens. I can now see more clearly how it connects to agency and claiming back our responsibility for ourselves and our lives. The mirror is always there; what we do with it and how clean we keep it has the potential to change everything. Thanks, Benny!

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    • 9 September 2022 at 17:27
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      Thank you, Vanessa. Your words are a perfect mirror to see whether what I wrote has any standing and if it is what I want to put out there. Your comments here capture what I wanted to say perfectly. It’s great to read that and that it was clear. Thanks!

      Reply
  • 7 September 2022 at 02:36
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    I really appreciate your post. Being honest about our reflection is so important in every area of our lives. You bought out really good points. We can grow when we admit what is going on inside and how we are with others. 🤗.

    Pastor Natalie (ExamineThisMoment)
    Letstakeamoment.com

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    • 9 September 2022 at 17:30
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      Thank you for your comment. Words like yours show me that I can convey my ideas and for others to understand them. That’s exactly how we grow. Admitting what’s going on and how we are with others. Excellent take on it.

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  • 9 September 2022 at 10:13
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    This was another deep read and I could relate so much to it. I have noticed that I am sometimes too receptive to others and mirror their attitude and actions without realizing it.
    For me, it was about 5 years ago when my better half asked why I was so different with certain people – like another person. And when I thought about it I did see it, even my feelings were different around some people and the feelings of anxiousness and bitterness left almost instantly when I left their company.
    I have since then worked a habit of asking myself why I am feeling like this when a sudden mood change occurs and if I don’t have an anwsere or reason, then I look at people around me.

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    • 9 September 2022 at 17:32
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      It’s great to see you have this reflection and willing to share it with us. Certain people have a different effect on us and they might make us behave differently. Asking those questions is a perfect start. Great to read you comment, thank you!

      Reply

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