For much of my life, mirrors have been a way to tear myself down. When I walked by a reflective building on the street, I’d check my stomach; “Is it sticking out? Do I look thin enough?” In the morning, my first glance in the mirror would come with a shirt lift, “Am I thin this morning?” Often followed by a number of other negative phrases about my face, nose and arms—all areas of my body I struggled to love.
The problem is: there are mirrors everywhere, especially for me, as someone who spends much of her time in a gym. I was (and, TBH, still do) always playing the am-I-enough game, the do-I-look-better-than-yesterday game. It was exhausting and, quite frankly, rude. I was being mean to myself every single chance I got—it was like I looked forward to tearing myself down. Instead of looking away from mirrors, I would seek them out, stare into them, picking myself apart.
I was lucky enough to work with an amazing therapist for a year and a half, and in one of those sessions, I discovered a way to turn it around.
The Moment It Stopped (Or Slowed Down)
As an ambitious, Type-A person, I always wanted homework from my therapist. At the time I was seeing her, my anxiety and body dismorphia had reached such a critical mass, that I wanted to actively work every single day at figuring it out and turning it around.
One thing we talked about quite a bit was how much I disliked my face. I had been called “butterface” (Everything is attractive but her face… who comes up with these things? Ugh!) in high school by an ex boyfriend, and had been told I have a big nose my entire life.
Those words hurt, and worse, they stuck. In one session, we decided my homework would be to say three nice things to myself every time I looked in the mirror.
The key was they had to be specific. “My hair looks nice” was not going to cut it. (This is still an amazing starting point if you’re struggling to find your body love!)
If I was doing this right now, I might say:
- I love how dedicated you are with writing, that’s really amazing.
- I love how blonde your hair is from the sun. I love when it’s long and light because it feels like summer!
- I love how you pushed yourself to sprint on the treadmill today. You were badass running at 8.0 for more than a minute.
While it felt strange at first, soon it became fun. Slowly but surely, I saw the mirror as less of a villain and more of a saving grace. It became a source of love and happiness, for myself and from myself. What an amazing and life-changing combination.
From the Mirror to My Life
The incredible part is this (slowly) began to spill over into the rest of my life. I found myself saying such nice things all the time! I also found that I would walk by a reflective building and not look over at myself—a serious accomplishment for someone who was a glutton for punishing self-talk for so long.
Now, I was speaking to myself using words like “love” and “beautiful” and I started to love my face, like really love it. I couldn’t believe how pretty I felt every time I looked in the mirror. And, for the first time, I didn’t think I had a big nose. I remember saying to my husband recently, “Man, I really don’t have that big of a nose, do I?” To which he of course responded, “What? No, of course not!” Talk about big-important-light-bulb kind of moment for self love.
I even cried from happiness one night as I looked into the mirror and the first words that came into my head were, “I love you, beautiful.” It may sound strange, but I was falling in love with myself.
Your Turn: Try the “3 Things” 7-Day Challenge
I want to challenge you to try this exercise with yourself every day for the next week (seven full days!). Every time you look in the mirror, say three things you love about yourself. They can be about your appearance, the work you’re doing in your career, your personality—whatever you love, just say it. If you can say it out loud, that’s even better.
Pay attention to your inner voice as the week progresses. Do you notice a touch of gentleness or kindness as the days pass by? Allow yourself to bask in how amazing that feels because you are a body warrior and you will remember how to love yourself like the rest of the world does.