“Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.”
While the above quotation isn’t exactly about a mirror I have come to believe the same idea applies to looking at oneself in a mirror. The reflection is really a reflection of what we think we see. Combine that trick, or distortion, with what the viewer wants to see and we can create a recipe for body image disaster. The mind can play tricks on us in many ways and, for me, I’ve come to realize the mirror is just one way my mind tricks me on a daily basis.
I have a problem. Even though I no longer struggle with food or eating disorder behaviors, I still have a problem. My problem is with the mirror and how my reflection distorts and greatly impacts my body image. Even though I no longer give the eating disorder power in my life, the struggle with negative body image and the power I give the mirror can still spell disaster for my body image on any given day. In our society we are taught from an early age the mirror and the scale are not our friends but rather our frienemies. Maybe you’re thinking, “Wait. What? The mirror and scale are absolutely my friends; they tell me how I look and whether or not I need to lose weight or change clothing in order to look better.” To which I would reply, “No, no. That is how the mirror and scale hold negative power over you. Society wants us to believe we need these items in order to better ourselves and to ensure we look the best and hide our ‘flaws’ in the best possible way…but they are not our friends.” From an early age we are taught to use these items to help us pick apart our bodies and find what we need to change. Sometimes the obsession with the scale and the mirror can go too far, such is the case with me.
While I haven’t owned a scale in 16 months, I still have mirrors in both bathrooms in my house. Not only that, but windows and other reflective surfaces have become mirrors for me. For the longest time I had the mirrors in my house mostly covered with collages and positive phrases. I left a small little section at my face level uncovered so I could do my hair easily but that was it. However, once we put our house up for sale I had to take down the mirror coverings and suddenly the little power I regained from the mirror was sucked away, as I again became a slave to checking my body and appearance. I would feel fantastic about myself, my clothing choice, and my body only to look in the mirror and be greatly disappointed by what I saw. My hips were too wide, my belly too large, my arms not toned enough…the list would go on until I walked away feeling dissatisfied and significantly less confident. I was comparing my current body to the body I had when I was 21 and very much struggling with the eating disorder. My mind was playing tricks on me. My mind wanted me to see what once was instead of what is; therefore forcing me to relinquish my power and positivity and exchange it for negativity and loathing. My mind then gives way to the remaining part of the ED by telling me I could be that image in my head again if… Which is the point where I have to remind myself my body has greatly changed and even with a rigorous gym schedule that could be will never be a reality again. The only reality that comes with that could be is a full blown eating disorder.
The other day I decided to add up how much time I spent checking the size of my body in the mirror, as well as the amount of time I spent before I looked and after just thinking about my body size. It was a shocking 30 minutes that I spend, on average, looking at myself and thinking about my body size. THIRTY. MINUTES. Now, I am a mother to a toddler so my time alone is very precious and oh the things I could do with 30 extra minutes! That alone was enough for me to determine I need to take drastic action to break this bad body image habit for good.
I decided I am going to stop looking the mirror for the next 30 days.
On the rare occasion I decide to wear cosmetics I will use a very small (think the size of your hand) mirror to apply mascara so I don’t stab my eyeball. I mean, I kind of like being able to see and all. Other than that, no mirrors (or windows, cars, or any other reflective surface). It has only been 24 hours and I can already tell this is going to be a challenge that will, at least in the beginning, require a SIGNIFICANT amount of thought. Have you ever tried brushing your teeth or washing your hands without even casually glancing up at the mirror? It is really hard! However, I know I need to take this drastic action in order to reclaim my precious time and create an even more positive body image. I am eager to continue to engage in this challenge and just see how my thought process plays out. I can honestly say that even without looking at my appearance for 24 hours I already feel a little different–better–about my body. I keep telling myself to “see what Jesus sees” when I start feeling the urge to look in the mirror. I recount my many positive attributes to pass the time until the urge to check my appearance passes and, you know what, I actually come out feeling better about myself because I have to do this quite often right now.
Do you think you could go 30 days without looking in a mirror?
How about just 24 hours?
I encourage you to give it a try and see what avoiding the mirror does for your body image just 24 hours after that last fateful glance at your body. If you decide to try it, share your thoughts in the comments below, I would love to hear what you think!
With Body Love,