“Who is the fairest one of all?” A dangerous and invariably damning question. Truth: there will always be one fairer than you. Still, we keep going back to the mirror. Now that modern technology has equipped us with the editing tools and with so many social outlets, we can post our fair likeness as often as we please with bodies free of pounds, wrinkles, liver spots, or errant facial hair.
Narcissus had a similar infatuation with his “Selfie”, only this Greek demigod took it one step further. Narcissus never took his eyes off himself once he caught sight of his beauty, and he lost his will to live. We humans believe our bodies and personalities are upgradeable like our iPhones. We doggedly pursue the quest for perfection, and since most of us will never make the cover of a magazine, we will post our Best-Self for the world to see.
I read an article that used the term “aspirational narcissism” describing our culture’s obsession with ourselves and how we believe that science supports this through evolutionary brain circuitry. But remember poor Narcissus. The allure was so strong and so deceptive that when he finally realized his love could not be reciprocated, he died. I don’t believe our brain circuitry is telling us to die for a perfect reflection of our image.
I suggest taking our eyes off ourselves and embracing a love that is outward focused, one that sacrifices for others. Such a choice requires transformation of the heart. I am under no illusion; the practice of such selfless love is even harder than pursuing the “aspirational narcissism” of the magic mirror.
Two thousand years ago, St. Paul devoted an entire section in his first letter to the church in Corinth on what an outward focused love might look like: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…” The list is extensive and truthful. This type of sacrificial love breaks the mirror of self-love and invites us into human connection, heals broken hearts, restores our joy and is capable of turning the world upside down. Let’s re-wire the brain circuity with this form of love.