As 21st century women there is no escaping our reflection. We live in a world of mirrors. Discovered in Turkey, the oldest mirror dates back over 5,000 years ago. It was a hollowed piece of polished obsidian, or volcanic glass. By the Victorian era most middle-class and wealthy women had small mirrors in their dressing rooms. Before then the majority of women went their entire lives without seeing a reflection of their naked body. Imagine that. We are now inundated by self-reflection, not only through mirrors, but also through other reflective surfaces—photographs, social media and the constant comparison games we play with other women.
Widespread research indicates that eight out of ten women are dissatisfied with their reflection and more than half may see a distorted image of themselves. A study published in the journal “Behaviour Research and Therapy” found that British women look at themselves an average of 38 times every day, while men do so only 18 times a day. While statistics may vary among different countries, women must still face their reflection head on.
Excessive and lengthy periods of mirror-looking tends to breed self-objectification—thinking of oneself as an object first and a person second. Self-objectification can lead to low self-esteem, self-loathing and body image issues.
“Men look at themselves in mirrors. Women look for themselves,” said Elissa Melamed, author of “Mirror, Mirror.” We have made the mistake of allowing the mirror to tell us who we aren’t (thin, beautiful, attractive, etc.) instead of telling the mirror who we are (courageous, loving, intelligent, compassionate, etc.). Mirrors are a reflection, a picture of our outer selves, yet they don’t tell the whole story of who we are in one glance. As women, it’s imperative to our joy that we learn how to respond to our reflection in a way that supports, not threatens, our self-esteem. At some point we are forced to deal internally with what we see externally. Here are some tips for embracing the mirror as your ally:
Know Your Mirror Motives
Are you using mirrors as a means of affirmation or self-criticism? Is vanity or insecurity driving you to do a double- or triple-take in the looking glass? Put the mirror in its proper place in your life and use it for what it is—a tool for personal hygiene and self-presentation. Make sure your mirror motives are pure and reasonable next time you have a look.
Take a Mirror Fast
Looking in the mirror less can put self-image insecurities in a smaller place. If you can, try going a day or two looking at your reflection as little as possible. Taking a mirror-less challenge is a behavioral experiment worth trying in order to assess your relationship with your reflection. If this seems unreasonable, try avoiding unnecessary checks in the mirror such as when you see your reflection in a window or your friend’s sunglasses.
Transform Your Mirror
Transform your bathroom mirror into an affirmation tool. Fill it with Post-it notes of positive quotes and affirmations or use a dry erase marker to write encouraging mantras that remind you of your true value, beauty and purpose.
Tell the Mirror What to Say
We have to tell the mirror what to say to us. Know your weak spots — the things you always criticize and come up with an affirmative response to each criticism. For example, if you find yourself saying, “I hate my eyelids,” instead learn to say, “My eyelids protect my eyes are are beautiful just the way they are.” Don’t look into the mirror with just your eyes — look with your heart. Make a commitment to see yourself as a whole person, not just a reflection. Acknowledge your talents, qualities, and the things that make you irreplaceable.
Finally, know what the mirror doesn’t tell you. We are conditioned to believe our reflection determines our worth, but a mirror doesn’t tell you your character or how well you love the people in your life. Your reflection is a shallow, ill-fitted measuring stick when it comes to capturing the story of your life. You are more than your reflection.