What’s your reaction when you look at yourself in the mirror? I’m guessing it’s not a big smile radiating love for your amazing body, acceptance of all your “flaws” and admiration of all that your body does for you? Instead you’re plagued with the “Ugh, I hate looking at my body in the mirror” thoughts. Amiright?? (Yes, I’m part mind-reader 🙂 )
I used to simultaneously be obsessed with looking at my body in the mirror while also hating what I saw.
For oh-so-many years, I had this crazy morning ritual. I woke up, headed to the bathroom, lifted up my shirt, and analyzed how thin (or fat) my stomach looked.
If I was on a diet, I would check my stomach to see my progress, how much weight I’d lost, and if I could finally “accept” my stomach.
If I was binging, I would look at my stomach and berate, criticize, and loathe myself. (As if somehow all that anger, hate, and self-sabotage would magically make me thinner.)
And yet every single day, analyzing my body only made me feel depressed, hopeless, and afraid that I would never like my reflection.
It was this weird irony. Because even though I hated looking at my body, I couldn’t break the habit! It became such a part of my routine that it was just “one of those things” I did every day (and sometimes multiple times a day!)
Was it making me feel good about myself, encouraging positive body lovin’, and helping me accept my body? Hell no. Yet, I couldn’t stop doing it!
Then I spent a year in Ecuador and my lovely, rinky-dinky apartment didn’t HAVE a full length mirror. It had a tiny half mirror over the sink and nothin’ else. So, with no way of looking at my stomach, I was forced to stop dissecting how fat or thin I looked every day.
At first, I was lost. I didn’t know how to gauge how I felt about myself. Like the number on a scale, it was an external benchmark I used to determine if my body was “acceptable”.
How am I going to know how to feel if I don’t know how big/small/thin/fat/gross/flat my stomach looks?
It was baptism by fire. I was forced to figure out another way to “gauge” my progress, another method of accepting myself, and another means to monitor my body size.
Letting go of the mirror gently allowed me to focus on how I felt about myself INSIDE, instead of relentlessly criticizing myself from the outside. (Click to tweet!)
And it broke my obsessive habit of checking in on the size of my stomach every morning.
I’m going to save you the trouble of moving abroad for a year sans mirror to find peace with your reflection. Here is an easier way to look at it without leaving the country 🙂
How you see your body is not an accurate view of reality.
Have you ever had that friend who complained about how fat she was and was literally half the size of your leg? Or felt like you were HUGE after eating a big meal and swore you looked 5 pounds heavier? Size is all about perception. How we see ourselves is not always how we really look. Sometimes, the baggage we are carrying around-emotions, negative thoughts, beliefs that don’t serve us-impact how we view the reflection in the mirror.
What you see can very well be a distorted image of reality. I’ve had clients who felt okay with the mirror at a size 10 and others who hated their size 2 reflection. Your views of how you think you “should look” impact how you see yourself in the mirror.
Your body can fluctuate.
If you are looking at your stomach, thighs, butt, or just your entire body, it’s important to remember that your body is always changing. Your size can fluctuate depending on your hormone levels, your retention of water, the types of foods you are eating, how much you are working out, and many other factors.
Say you ate 4 pieces of pie after Thanksgiving dinner, and look in the mirror, convinced you gained 10 pounds. How you see yourself is going to be very different than what you saw the day before. You may feel bloated, gross, and disgusting, but you did NOT gain 10 pounds.
Even though you “see” yourself looking heavier, you really didn’t gain any weight. (Math lesson: an average piece of pie is 300 calories. Multiplied by 4=1200 calories. To gain a pound, you need to eat an extra 3500 calories).
If we use something external to gauge how we feel, it will never lead to positive feelings about our body, because it’s always changing! (Click to tweet!)
Looking in the mirror everyday doesn’t lead to healing.
Ask yourself and really listen to the answer: does obsessively analyzing your body in the mirror make you feel good about yourself? The honest answer is a resounding NO.
Working to feel good in our bodies doesn’t come from changing something external. It begins with our beliefs and it begins inside. Be honest with yourself and commit to moving towards habits that really serve you-make you feel more positive, more open, more joyous, and more…well, good! This definitely does not meet that criteria. And sometimes, we have to let go of what does not serve us to allow space for what DOES serve us.
Tell me, what are your habits around looking at your body in the mirror? What do you struggle with? What can you work on? Share away in the comments below 🙂
PS-one of my favorite blog posts to date on the HuffPost: Are You Ready to See Your Body in a New Way?