”Tell me, what you think about me, what is your opinion about me?” we have asked other people this question a number of times. We were, however, not interested in the opinion of just anyone; we only wanted to know the opinion of others who have been close to us: our family members, teachers and friends. All through our life, we have collected these opinions, we have been staring at the mirror. In the view of what we see in the mirror, we make efforts to find an answer to the most important question of our life: Who am I?
What we have gathered from the opinions received from others, we forged an image of ourselves, who we are and what our mission in life is. We have gradually identified with the image, we believed that the image is really us; we have pinned it up on the wall of our room, and proudly show it to any coming our way: look, that is me.
On the other hand, the image in the mirror has also caused us a lot of worry, since there is always a doubt in us: does that image really meet the expectations of others, do we appear good, decent, religious enough in the eyes of others?
As a consequence, we spend our whole life polishing and improving the image in order to make it look better and better for others. We tend to believe that the best strategy in this process is copying, imitating others. This is a strategy that we use from our babyhood onward, that is how we learn our native language, and that is how we acquire the elements of our culture. Later, when we are older, we continue copying others, since if we follow the ways of those who lead a decent and good life, we cannot be wrong.
Another characteristic feature of our image in the mirror is that it is contradictory by nature. We receive almost as many opinions as many friends and acquaintances we have. Some may consider as clever, whereas others do not find that the most important feature of ours. It generates a permanent state of uncertainty in connection with the image, that is, in connection with ourselves.
This uncertainty in connection with ourselves shall serve as a basis for our desire to convince other people that the image in the mirror is true, and we really are the way other people see us. If our identification is worth the image in the mirror, generated from the opinions of others, is strong, it keeps us in a virtually hypnotic state, and we live our whole life under the spell of that image.
It is, however, a gross mistake to believe that we see our real face in the mirror of opinions. No opinion is able to reflect our real self, our real, inner existence, and it is impossible to project our real, inner self onto any mirror.
If we intend to really know our self, we have to be able to turn away from the mirror of opinions. We should no longer deal with what others think about us; instead, we need to concentrate on who we really are. For example, the real issue for us is not whether others see us as happy, but whether we are really happy.
The mirror of opinions will not release its victim very easily, though. It has been so deeply incorporated into our personality that it is in fact a real part of our personality. Whenever we attempt to turn away from the mirror of opinions, an inner voice, the voice of our consciousness will, speak to us: what are my parents going to say? What would my wife think about it? This inner voice is very often quite effective, and we are again under the hypnotic spell of the image in the mirror.
For breaking out of the spell, we need to understand that the only way of knowing ourselves is through direct experience, our own experience, and not through the opinion of others. We are only able to receive direct experience if we are alert. So as to be alert, we need to focus our attention to the Here and Now.