Mental Health A-Z: P is for Perception

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It’s another foggy morning.

From inside the café I gaze out of the window, watching the people pass by. Fog curls through the air, leaveseddying across the street as mycoffee cup warms my freezing hands.

As strangers filter past, I can’t help but notice how perfect each person looks.

A businesswoman walks by, confidently towering in her red high heels, her black dress matching perfectly with a smart jacket.

Another stranger passes the window, her red curly hair flowing effortlessly in the wind, shielding her tiny figure from the weather with a thick coat.

I catch sight of my pale reflection in the glass. I see a chubby face, with podgy marks across each cheek. The eyeliner has already begun to smudge, merging into flaky eye shadow. Cold wind has cracked my lips, dried and reddened my cheeks, and frizzed up my hair.

Some days it’s a real struggle to like the face staring back at me.

A young girl skips past wrapped up in a duffel coat, laughing as her scarf and hair are clasped by the wind. She shields her face from the weather and runs back to her mother, still grinning as her shoes slip across the wet pavement.

Why can’t I be that happy about things I can’t control?

Another student sits down on the stool next to me, sipping her coffee as she gazes out of the window.

And that’s when I realise. In reality, all that separates me from this beauty is this window.

Why should being an outsider looking in, or sitting by a window looking out, make you any less beautiful? Beauty is a matter of perspective; you may hate your frizzy hair, and yet a passer-by on the street gazes at it in wonder.

Think of all the times you have wanted to compliment a stranger’s features; their hair, shoes or smile. Rememberall the people that you’ve temporarily fallen in love with on a train, or even the times when you’ve loved a busker’s voice. But we’ve convinced ourselves that it would be too weird to compliment: they don’t know me. I’ll just stay quiet. Imagine how much more confidence we would all have hearing such comments.

It’s important to remember thatwe all struggle with negative body image at times. We all have mornings when we hate our stomach or wish we could change something about our appearance. In fact we are all so self-conscious about looking a certain way that we forget the most beautiful thing about being human: difference. ‘Perfection’ does not have a single definition: whether your legs are chubby or skinny, or whether your hair is straight or curly is irrelevant to how beautiful you are.

I finish my coffee and venture back out into the cold. Next time I go back to the café I will admire the strangers walking past, but without avoiding my own reflection.

Charlie Collett

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