Mirroring the Inside Out

By Nina Elliott, aka The Rock Vandal

Nina Elliott takes a photo of herself in a distorted mirror surrounded by colourful crocheted flowers hung on an outside wall.
Nina Elliott takes a photo of herself in the Twillingate NL-installed mirror.

I like to listen to podcasts about mindset and one thing they all espouse is starting your morning right. Ideally you wake up, sip tea, set your intentions for the day, stretch and journal. My mornings never start like this though. It’s almost always a blurry beginning when you have a one year old and three year old. I make it to the bathroom, tie my hair in a top knot and begin mothering duties.

Any glimpse at the mirror is simply to ensure my presentation is ‘passable’. Before we head to the library, I do a quick check to see if I have banana on my sweater or marker on my face. No? Ok, let’s go! In the evenings, once the kids are asleep I can settle into my art practise and return to those podcasts about positive psychology, affirmations and self-talk.

One night while crocheting and listening to an interview with Mel Robbins, the most booked motivational speaker worldwide, about her High Five Habit, I got thinking about the contrast between my daily routine and evening lectures.

I realized that each time I went to the mirror, it was from a place of critique. I never congratulated myself or even spoke kindly. It dawned on me that if a friend spoke this way to me, it would be a short friendship. It was not a pretty realization as I observed my tendency to pick at and criticize the woman who met me in the mirror.

So, I set the intention of being kind to myself. Instead of looking for flaws, I could give myself a high five! I could use an affirmation and remind myself of all that I am vs all that I am not. I could still check for food stains or too messy a bun, but the idea was that it could be a positive experience, one based in friendship and kindness. It turned into a fun little game and definitely lifted my spirits overall. It made spotting my reflection an opportunity to check in and have a bit of a laugh!

At the same time I bought some mirrors so I could share the game with my community through my street art practise. Wanting to encourage others to reflect on their own internal dialogue, I crocheted ‘I am’ and installed it near Twillingate’s post office with a mirror surrounded by flowers. I wanted onlookers to complete the ‘I am’ statement themselves while looking at their reflection. I also wanted to subtly encourage positivity and a growth mindset via the flowers. I pass it daily and challenge myself to notice what’s running through my mind and try to replace it with something relevant, new and positive.

An outdoor wall festooned with crocheted “I am”, colourful flowers and a mirror.
Twillingate NL installment of “I am”

In thinking more about the game I was playing and the gentle but certain effects it had on me, I decided to make another installation for the provincial capital of St. John’s. This time, I crocheted a giant neon hand with a mirror and the message Hi 5 You! I enlisted an artist friend to install it and in the weeks leading up to its arrival we exchanged photos of us high fiving our own reflections. The game was expanding and the experience of going to the mirror was becoming… a joy!

A smiling blonde woman with a top knot and sunglasses wearing a grey sweater and pink scarf holds her hand in a “High Five” gesture in front of a neon green crocheted hand with a mirror in the centre.
Life coach and Keeping it Real podcaster: Gina Keeping https://www.ginakeeping.ca/

He installed it early one morning on one of St. John’s main streets. Within a couple of hours I had photos of smiling people high fiving themselves. The accompanying messages were full of positivity, fun and love.

A smiling brunette woman in a ball cap wearing dark clothing holds a dynamic pose facing the camera with her hand held up in the “high five” gesture in front of the large neon green crocheted hand with a mirror in its palm.
Mental health first aid trainer Alison Butler https://www.alisonbutler.ca/

The experience of using a mirror to look inward and reflect kindness back out has had a profound effect on me. I can’t unlearn this philosophy and technique and I’m grateful for it. I hope the people who stumble upon my art have a similar experience, and that the message of kindness lingers in their mind whenever they face the mirror.

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Nina Elliott is an artist based in Twillingate, NL. Learn more about her work as the Rock Vandal.

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WeavEast is a regional platform for connecting and serving people and organizations who are making positive social change in Atlantic Canada.