Existential Crisis

I melted into what felt like an existential crisis last week. It was time to buy a new foundation because I had to change brands. In this era of Covid-19 there are many online options to ‘find your shade’, as I soon found out. I downloaded an app, took my picture in the recommended lighting, and followed the directions to help me determine what would look best on my skin.

The results shocked to me as the app took me shades lighter than the foundation I was using. “No, that is not the true color of my skin“, I objected. So, I tried another app. It gave the same results. Where had my beautiful brown skin gone? Who is that person that needs such a light foundation? Surely, that can’t be me. How many times a day do I look in the mirror? No matter how many times I have looked in the past three years since I left Belize, I have not seen that person that needs a lighter foundation than my usual. Instead, every time I’ve looked I have seen the woman who left the land of the free by the Carib sea, face tanned by so much sun; and because that is who I’ve seen reflected back at me, that is the woman I’ve bought foundation for all this time.

The parallels to real life didn’t escape me. How often do we think of ourselves, not as we are now, but as who we were for a long time? Our circumstances and situations have changed, and time has passed. It is a new season, and as human beings it is natural that we have changed along with them; but we don’t see it. It is often impossible for us to see the change in ourselves, even though we examine ourselves all the time.

But these apps told me a different story. They told me that my skin had gone lighter without all the sun I was once exposed to. They told me that all this time I had been seeing myself as I had been for a long time, not truthfully as I am now. Selfies I’ve taken in the last few years flashed through my mind, and as they did, I could also see that the editing had changed to adapt to changing color on my face. My photographic eye saw it, but I didn’t.

I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t tear up a little bit as I faced the fact of what the apps told me, and to the reality of my origins and my DNA. I wasn’t happy with it, but I knew this is something I had to do if I wanted to find an accurate foundation to match my skin, not only today, but in the future as seasons change.

I went to the makeup store fully expecting the bad news to be confirmed. It was, and it wasn’t. The foundation I ended up with was not as light as the ones the apps recommended, but it was not as dark as the one I had been using.

The parallels to real life didn’t escape me. How often do we think of ourselves, not as we are now, but as who we were for a long time? Our circumstances and situations have changed, and time has passed. It is a new season, and as human beings it is natural that we have changed along with them; but we don’t see it. It is often impossible for us to see the change in ourselves, even though we examine ourselves all the time.

David cries out in the Psalms, “Search me, O God…and see if there is any offensive way in me”. (Ps 139:23-24 NIV). He understood that there are times he couldn’t see himself as he truly was. Jesus spoke about this too. He said, “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt 7:5 NIV).

Sometimes it is only an objective outsider who can point us to the truth of our situation. A natural response to that outsider’s view is anger and push back, but if we slow down and listen, they may actually have the words that we need to make the change that we need.

David cries out in the Psalms, “Search me, O God…and see if there is any offensive way in me”. (Ps 139:23-24 NIV). He understood that there are times he couldn’t see himself as he truly was. Jesus spoke about this too. He said, “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt 7:5 NIV).

Facing up to this understanding of how blind we can be in our own self-examination is difficult. Acknowledging our need for others to reflect our real selves back to us is a start. It is part of the process of becoming our better selves. What they say may throw you into an existential crisis, that might in the end bring more clarity than you had before, and point you in the direction you really need to go.

©Debbie Mendoza May 2021

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