What, or who, do I see when I look in the mirror?
This is a question that I think everyone should ask him/herself at different stages in life. Maybe it would teach us who we are, who we want to be, what is wrong within us, what is right within us, and how to work on bettering ourselves.
As for me, when I look in the mirror, I think to myself, "Yeah, okay, I’m not the most beautiful woman in the world, but I am not ugly either. Not at all, in fact. And that's all that matters." Obviously, my face is the first thing I notice, and what defines external beauty is much of what is found in the face, not exactly the rest of the body. If I didn’t think I was beautiful, I would not be the person I am right now because I can imagine the many problems that would be glued to my lack of self-esteem. Thinking I’m not ugly at all solves my problem of self-confidence as well.
But the first and MOST important person I see in the mirror is ... a Pashtun female who is frustrated with several of her traditional standards. These standards don’t affect me personally or directly, but they affect other women of my race, and the frustration has predictably evolved into a smothering disturbance that is compelling me to speak up for those whose voices have been silenced for centuries, if not millennia. The woman I see in the mirror is a potential reflection of the woman whom my culture may breed were it given permission and provided opportunity, by women and men both, to do so; unfortunately, society is not given this permission -- yet. I see myself as another burden on my Pashtun society, a burden like Malalai – an Afghan female police officer who imprisoned and punished men who abused their female family members; she was murdered by the Taliban in October 2008. But I am convinced that only through females like Malalai will our society be able to become tolerant towards outspoken women, and what better way to see that happening than to be such a woman myself?
I see a confused student who is unsure of what she wants to do for life – become a lawyer, a journalist, a women’s studies professor, an Islamic studies student who would study Arabic enough to be able to interpret the Quran for herself, a researcher on Pashtun women, or all of these (maybe at different stages).
I see a Muslim female who is more than certain about her religious beliefs, which are extreme neither in the liberal nor the conservative sense. I a Muslim who has developed, constructed, and embraced her own conception of the Invisible Divine Being she calls God and couldn’t be any happier regarding her relationship with Her God.
I see myself as all of these above anything else because my race and religion are the most prominent characters that make up who I am. Realizing this now makes me feel like an ingrate for not mentioning the many other things that help complete my whole being, such as my being able to walk, talk, think for myself, see, go to school, and so on. It is as though these latter points are a given, as though I have to be able to do these anyway. This is not the case, though, practically speaking. There are many people worldwide are denied the opportunity to be educated, many religious believers are forbidden to ask questions and/or think, and many humans lack the faculty of seeing or hearing or some others. Is this why a physically disabled person is looked at as a different being, and he/she has a different place in society (and usually low one in eastern cultures)? Yes, the difference between "normal" and "abnormal" people is evident and should not be denied, and I’m not implying that there should be no such gap, but perhaps we take our privileges and rights for granted sometimes? Maybe not necessarily on purpose, as privilege is invisible, but without realizing it.
A few months ago, or actually a year ago, I would not have seen myself as a Pashtun woman because I denied myself this ethnic title of mine, this blood. But as I learned, read, and pondered over my history and culture and people, I realized I had nothing to run away from and that the problems that my people are facing can only be solved by those who realize and understand them and plot practical solutions for them; running away from them and denying my own identity was not the solution to anything but would only keep me a confused woman for the rest of my life, until I accepted who I was. So what has changed that today, the first thing I see in the mirror is a Pashtun? I’m not sure. Does one have to know what one really is, or is not, in order to see, like, and appreciate oneself? Do people who think they are ugly see themselves as ugly first, or do they consider their other qualities as well?
Yes, it would do most of us much good if we asked ourselves this question more frequently, just to appreciate who we are and to work on bettering ourselves when we are displeased with the person we meet in the mirror.