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Essay contest: Reflections on mirrors

My sister’s disability taught me that there’s more to life than how I look

1st place $50

Jisu Yoo, Wilson MS (Glendale)

Dogs are man’s best friend, likewise, mirrors are a woman’s best friend “forever,” or maybe not. To some people, mirrors help them look decent; to others, it’s a nightmare. Various girls today look in the mirror and say to themselves, “Why can’t I be pretty like her?” Or perhaps the famous line all women love to repeat, “Oh my gosh, I am so fat!” I, like most girls, said these thoughts to myself about how imperfect I was in front of the famous “mirror on the wall.”

Society and mirrors got me thinking that I needed to say out loud that I thought I was fat and ugly. If I thought I was pretty or normal, I would be considered a conceited brat. My friends would inspect themselves in the beloved mirror constantly, checking to see if they were pretty enough for a certain guy or looked stunning just for the attention. Being the girl who wanted to fit in, I did the same and took quick glances at myself to see if everything was in order. There was so much to fix: from making sure my hair was perfect, to seeing if my clothes showed enough skin, and putting even more lip gloss on my shiny lips. My way of thinking, however, changed completely because of my beautiful, little baby sister named Natalie.

My baby sister was born with brain damage that impaired her ability to move, which includes activities like walking, sitting up or even talking. I learned more from Natalie than anyone else. She showed me that life was too short to think about being perfectly pretty at school and influenced me to become a neurologist and find a cure for her. Living life isn’t about looking constantly at your own reflection and being insecure about your every move. I thought to myself, “I should just be who I am, not think about what people say about me or what the mirror says I am.” I was going to be myself, become someone, and no one could take that away from me.

Now when I look back at who I was before, I feel pathetic. Then I look again and I’m proud that I’ve been able to come this far because I can turn my eyes to the mirror, at myself, and not have to fix a thing. I am capable of looking into a mirror and seeing a future. I can see myself as a neurologist with my baby sister walking beside me, talking to me about her day.

After years of pain, I am proud to be gay

2nd place $30


As I walk into the bathroom, I see a person facing me, a young boy whose past is riddled with sorrow, regret and emptiness. He held a secret in his heart, a secret that caused him pain inside. But he would never let go of that secret, afraid that he would be despised, hated, out-of-place and unaccepted.

I remember the same boy sacrificed countless amounts of joy, pretending to be something he was not. I watched him cry at night wishing he could relieve himself of that burden. I watched him lose faith as he asked why it happened to him. Why couldn’t he have someone to talk to?

I remember watching the same boy as he held a blade to his arm and sorrow flowed from the wound. I watched as he did it over and over again. I would look at his face and see tears flow from blank eyes. I saw how those eyes turned to sadness as he cleared the blood and covered the wound he’d created.

I remember watching the same boy as he looked down from the building. I remember him thinking how small his life was compared to the multitude of people down below. He contemplated crossing the rail, a boundary to stop him from flying over those people. But his mom calls him in at the last minute.

I remember a hand pulling the boy from the depths of shadow and despair. I watched as he was guided down the right path. I saw fear cross his face as he realized that he had to let go of his secret and be free. I watched as he tried to run but gentle hands and arms held him in place. I watched as the weight was finally lifted from his shoulders.

Now I look away from the boy. Now I look away from my reflection, as I think of now and the future and how each day is another day to live as a young, gay man freed from his burdens and the sorrow of his former life.

The mirror changed from enemy to friend

3rd place $20

Justine Burroughs, Gardena HS

She was my worst enemy. She revealed my horrible reflection. She seemed to always show my imperfections. It seemed like she was always there to humiliate me about the way I looked. She memorized every flaw I contained.

My enemy saw and remembered every degrading moment. She was there when I suffered from nappy, untamable hair. She saw when I had a mound of pimples that took over my face. My bully saw my enormous nose grow larger every day. Although she saw all of my imperfections on the surface, she never saw the real me.

After a few years of letting my enemy determine my self-esteem, I decided to change. I started to love myself since my enemy was trying to keep me down. I began to embrace my big nose, pimply face and nappy hair. I did this to show my enemy that my reflection didn’t bother me as much. My enemy saw that she couldn’t damage my spirit, so she began to put emphasis on the real me.

My enemy became my friend due to my change in attitude. She let me see a reflection that I truly admired. I saw my beautiful traits now that she was my friend. She revealed my radiant complexion, bright brown eyes, textured hair and my wonderful gigantic nose. She was no longer someone to run or hide from because she began to show me as the great person I am.

If I had never changed, then my friend, Mirror, would still be my enemy. She only revealed what I let her reveal. Mirror made me see that everything was gorgeous about me, even my pimply face. Thanks to Mirror I have high self-esteem. Mirror taught me that only I, not a person or thing, can determine what is a flaw.

Beautiful, wonderful me

Honorable mention


Mirrors function as a part of my daily affirmation. Every morning before I go to school, I look into the mirror and I tell myself, “I am beautiful and intelligent. I will not let people put me down because they do not know what a wonderful person I am.” I use this routine as a way to boost my confidence.

A few years ago, I was humiliated and alienated by a group of girls who did not like me. I did not do anything to them, but they bullied me because it boosted their confidence. The bullying went on for a long time and when it finally stopped, I refused to accept myself because I started to believe I was not normal.

My life was completely dark and shattered until I read a magazine article about a girl who dealt with bullies. She suffered the same pain as I did, but she found help. She attended sessions with a therapist who suggested she do daily affirmations. These daily affirmations consisted of looking in the mirror and saying a few positive things about oneself. I have done these daily affirmations for about a year now and it has helped build my confidence tremendously. I no longer feel alone and helpless, but I feel a sense of belonging and strength to overcome anything.