I was watching a show recently—well, more of a sitcom—but I was two seasons in, and I was staring at one of the main characters when a thought struck me: she looks like me. Naturally, I immediately looked for a second opinion and sent a picture to my dad. However, his response was rather anticlimactic, as he thought we looked nothing alike and believed I was crazy.   

Now, I was confused. I mean, why would I look at this girl for two seasons, hours upon hours, and think she looks like me when she doesn’t? I always thought of myself as relatively self-aware, so a part of me was almost disappointed in myself. I felt a sort of acute embarrassment that stemmed from misplaced confidence.   

I stared at myself in the mirror for a while that night, trying to analyze what was there. I saw the usual features—two eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth, chin, etc.—but I was looking for more. I saw the arched brows over hooded eyes, eyes with an average shape that seemed to tip down just barely. I saw the small cupid’s bow of my top lip and how it was the same size as the bottom one. I saw the two freckles that hug the top and bottom of my right eye. I saw everything, but I knew it would be different tomorrow.   

However, I feel like I look different to myself every time I look in a mirror. It is not the visual aspect that changes much, though; rather, it is the feeling of what I see.   

Sight is not as clear as we want it to be. Sight is a victim of perspective, and perspective is a cruel, cruel villain. So much can alter what we see based on how we feel. I, personally, find messy and unfinished things quite beautiful. But, when I, myself, feel messy and unfinished, I loathe them.   

I don’t know why we are wired this way. It would be much easier if we could see everything for what it is, but a world without context wouldn’t be much of a world, now would it?   

I have started looking at myself more closely in the mirror. I try to run through a checklist of what I know is there and ground myself in the raw features of my face before I start judging, poking and prodding. I take in all there is in one clinical sweep before I begin the wishing and the yearning.   

Sometimes it feels as if my reflection is a stranger; maybe it is because my mind wants it to be. We are conditioned to adhere to beauty standards that are not necessarily realistic. We stare at these perfect images and then manufacture features into our faces. We are supposed to act as though our features are unfinished, as though they did not come fully formed and must be manipulated.   

I see with my eyes what my mind dreams about, and I am positive that many of you do too.