So many of us have a bit of a love-hate relationship with our reflected image. There are reasons for this but, more importantly, there are some things we can do about it.
“I hate looking in the mirror!”
My heart breaks whenever a client says this (although you’d think I should get used to it, what with being a body confidence coach and all), and yet it’s really not that long since I used to do exactly the same thing myself. I could pick more holes in my appearance than you would find in a lump of Swiss cheese that’s been attacked by a marauding horde of hungry mice.
But before I talk about ways to ditch the self-loathing mirror talk, let’s explore why we do it in the first place. Cue some internet research!
Why you might not like what you see
The first (and rather staggering) thing I noticed when I typed “I hate looking in the mirror” into Google was a return of 18.5 million search results. That seemed like an awful lot. I tested a few other phrases and eventually found a significantly more popular topic (what to wear for an interview…in case you were wondering!) Nevertheless, more than 18 million hits does seem like a lot, especially for such a soul-destroying topic.
Apparently, we are the only species to have this response when we look in the mirror, although I’m not sure how you determine what another creature might be thinking when they see their own reflection – one of my cats rears up on his hind legs and tries to fight the image he sees in my gloss-finish kitchen cupboard doors. Clearly, he thinks there’s another cat there!
Collective expertise on the internet suggests that we look in mirrors because we think other people are judging what they see of us, so we feel the need to judge ourselves and adjust our appearance accordingly in order to be acceptable. Unfortunately, we are our own worst critics and will almost always judge ourselves much more harshly than others do.
Another reason could be that we struggle to interpret how we feel about ourselves, so we use our external appearance as a way to verify that we’re OK. Unfortunately, this can have the opposite effect and instead make us feel worse.
For many, it may be a learned behaviour. We’ve seen our mothers scrutinising and criticising their appearance in front of a mirror, and we learned to be equally dissatisfied with our own reflected image.
How to make friends with your mirror
As with many behaviours, there is likely to be a degree of habit formation that has built up over the years. The first step to tackling a love-hate relationship with your reflection is therefore to become aware of your thoughts and any internal dialogue that typically arises when you look in a mirror. Notice the words you use, the feelings that are triggered when you speak to yourself like this, and whether there are any aspects of your appearance that you are more critical of.
Once you know when and how you’re talking to yourself, you can set about changing the language and sentiment. Make a conscious effort to find positive things about yourself – features you like, achievements you’re proud of, skills you have, nice things you do for others. Instead of hating your body, consider all the amazing things it can do. Greet yourself in the mirror as you would an old friend, with kindness and compassion (if you think that’s weird, check out Mel Robbins’ High-5 Habit!).
Like anything, it takes repetition and practice to build new behaviours, particularly when you’re replacing old habits that are deeply ingrained. Keep at it! Not only will you change your relationship with your mirror, but you will also build a stronger sense of self-worth that will boost your confidence and improve your wellbeing.
I’d love to know how you get on – feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org