Gentlemen, admit it.
Whether it was this morning after the shower or yesterday when leaving the gym, sometime in the past 24 hours you have paused for a moment to either check yourself out, take in one of your own photos, or reflect on your reflection when it appeared on a piece of shiny household furniture. And let’s not pretend you’re only looking at your weight and size for health purposes–we both know you haven’t spent nearly as much time reviewing your diet plan this week as you’ve spent reviewing your profile in the last 24 hours. For better or for worse, you are paying attention to your physical appearance and determining how you feel about it to some extent or another. As the legendary comedian George Burns once observed, “When I get undressed at night to go to bed, do I stand in front of a mirror and applaud myself for twenty minutes? I think fifteen minutes is plenty!”
Look no further than the multitude of new weight loss products and supplements constantly being plugged on TV, radio, and the internet for proof of this. Do any of the claims of these latest weight loss fads actually work? What percentage of people actually bother to even try them out seriously anyway? Why haven’t most people who are worried about getting into shape just gone on a conventional diet instead? These are all legitimate questions, but one fact remains true regardless of their answers–that the powers that be wouldn’t keep putting out more and more of these products if it wasn’t clear that at least the idea of self-improvement didn’t resonate with a large swath of the people out there encountering these ads.
In other words, we all do it. However it plays out in our case, we are all keeping tabs on our physical appearances and worrying about our images. We all hope the man in our imaginations can someday be the man in the mirror, whether or not we like what we see right now.
At the same time, many of us have an identity crisis of sorts. After all, we’re not monsters. We would never dream of judging anyone else we know based solely on their weight or physical appearance–and rightfully so! Hopefully, it’s been a long time since we were all in kindergarten and were taught to respect other people, and since we’ve grown mature enough to recognize that a human being’s value lies in the quality of their character and not in their external features. The very idea of judging someone based purely on the way they look and not on what kind of person they are disgusts you!
So how, then, can you justify your undeniable obsession with your own appearance?
The answer lies in the delicate art of balance. Despite living in a world often polarized to extremes in many areas of society, the wisest man is often the one who can spot the little grains of truth within each point of view, and utilize them all collectively to improve himself in the bigger picture. In the following case, who is better off at the end of the day? The one who knows that summer is coming and buys a bathing suit, only to freeze in the winter? Or the one who knows that winter is coming and buys a parka, only to fry in the summer? In the end, the only one who truly comes out of this situation ahead is the bystander who listens to both sides, realizes that both summer and winter will come eventually, and invests his time and money into a closet full of proper clothing for both seasons. Only he has truly reached his potential and will fully be able to make the most out of his next year of life.
And that is the challenge of the mirror, gentlemen. That is why even though we are not superficial and know what really matters in life, the mirror still beckons and possesses us to try and look our best. It is because deep down, once we burrow past whatever hurdles and excuses we tell ourselves and others are what’s holding us back, most of us really would like to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be. It is because the wise man realizes that while our true value comes from within, a man who truly knows his own value will never stop striving to grow and improve in all avenues of life–and appearance just happens to be the one that stares him most directly in the face. To be able to recognize that and let it motivate you to improve your appearance is to strike the perfect balance that every gentleman should hope to reach someday. That’s the challenge that our mirrors have posed to us. The only question now is, will you rise to the occasion and accept?
So tonight, tomorrow morning, or whenever the next time you find yourself looking in the mirror is, don’t feel guilty, depressed, or even conflicted–just smile and remind yourself that you are on a mission to be the best version of yourself you can be. And after doing this a few times, you just might start to like the face you see smiling back.