Life in the Fun Factory – How do we really see ourselves?

Do you ever feel like you live in a Fun Factory? You know, one of those ones with all the weird mirrors that make you look shorter, fatter or crazier than you actually are?

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I know very few people who view themselves in a straight-up, this-is-how-it-really-is type of mirror. The ‘Love The Skin You’re In’ people. It’s hard not to envy them their honest and positive view of themselves.

Of course, the ones to really envy are those who live in a Fun Factory full of mirrors that make them look taller, thinner and more talented than perhaps they are. Such people exist. They must. It’s the only way to explain those excruciating audition episodes of TV talent shows.

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The mirrors in my Fun Factory are highly distorted, if comments from friends are to be believed. Those friends all tell me I am someone I can’t see.

This is an ad for Dove in which they used a forensic artist to sketch a person’s face based firstly on their own description and then on the description from another person who had just met them. It seems many of us see ourselves in distorted mirrors.

The Dove ad deals with how we may see ourselves in a physical sense but I think it equally applies to how we see ourselves in our actions and our very being.

Someone recently told me I am very kind to people. I was a bit taken aback by that. Certainly, I always try to be kind but I know I fall short frequently – a selfish action, thoughtless words – and often I am trying to make amends for mistakes or to compensate for shortcomings that have caused hurt in the past. By my accountancy reckoning, I’ve still got a long way to go before ‘kind’ is in the black.

But perhaps our friends are our forensic artists. They are the ones who see us as others do and can reflect back to us what we cannot see ourselves. And they will be honest about it. True friends will, anyway.

It doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to accept what we are being told. When you are locked in the Fun Factory, surrounded by reflected images telling you otherwise and the only way out is through a maze of mirrors, it can be easier to believe what you see yourself than what others are telling you they see.

It’s not just self-deprecation or false modesty. It is a very real inability to see yourself as others do. The reasons why this is will be varied – sometimes obvious, sometimes mystifying. Always valid.

But maybe, just once in a while, we need to close our eyes, ignore the mirrors and listen to the trusted voices around us telling us what they see. And believe.

And then we should find our way out of the Fun Factory and go and ride the Ferris Wheel instead. The view from the top should make everything clearer.

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