Not all of us possess will power like Kjerstin Gruys, a UCLA graduate student boycotting mirrors for one full year to avoid relapsing from her eating disorder recovery. While to most this endevour seems outrageous, I give props to Gruys for going against the grain when it comes to America’s obsession with appearance. Most of us won’t admit it (it’s so not hip to be vain) but it seems like any chance we get to see our reflection’s, we take it. According to statistics, the average woman spends the equivalent of five days per year in front of a mirror. And most of the time, we’re not very nice to ourselves when we’re looking at our reflection—97% of women have at least one “I hate my body” moment per day.
I’d rather take a vacation to Hawaii, thank you very much. But, let’s break this down further. Five days per year is equal to 120 hours per year, which means the average woman spends about 21 minutes per day in front of the mirror. Let’s be honest here – how often do you look at yourself in the mirror? Once in the morning? Three times a day? Every hour on the hour? If you think about it, you don’t even really need an actual mirror to do a head to toe body check. I’m sure some, if not most of us are guilty of the classic “walk down the street and check your body out in the store window trick” or the stealth, “I’m looking at you, but I’m actually checking myself out in the reflection of your sunglasses” maneuver.
So what if we just stopped checking ourselves out in the mirror? What if we stopped analyzing every body part and posing in front of glass to see how we can get Michelle Obama‘s arms for our Facebook profile pic? What if we stopped talking negatively about our bodies and knocking ourselves down every day? Along with saving 21 minutes per day, we would gain a stronger sense of self and increase our positive body image.
According to the Social Research Issues Centre, negative body image begins at an early age. Infants as young as two years old begin to recognize their reflection in the mirror and only a few short years later, young females begin to form negative thoughts about themselves. In a society obsessed with the distorted ideal that “thin is beautiful”, it is difficult to say no to the mirror. This obsession may lead Body dismorphic disorder (BDD), a condition where people have a distorted view of what their body actually looks and feels like and associate their bodies with negative thoughts. For these people, looking in the mirror every day is a very negative and self-depricating event. A study from Behavior Research and Therapy showed that BDD patients invariably feel worse after mirror gazing and more likely to use random surfaces such as the backs of CDs or cutlery for a reflection.
To be able to stand in front of the mirror and be truly happy with what you see is not an easy thing to do. Once the loquacious pessimistic voice inside your head starts babbling away, it’s difficult to slap a muzzle on it. Here are some ways to put that inner critic on mute and hand your positive self-loving voice a microphone:
- Write an “I love myself because…” list. Make a list of 10 things you like about yourself unrelated to physical appearance. Include your strengths, your talents, and anything you are proud of. Then make a list of 10 things you love about your body or appearance. Fill in the blank, “I love my______because…”. For example, “I love my legs because they allow me to run a mile”. Now you will begin to appreciate your body for the amazing things it does for you.
- Challenge negative self-talk. When the evil jiminy cricket starts to run his mouth, challenge him. Counteract the negative talk with a positive voice. You are your worst critic so only you can change that.
- Be realistic. “I want to lose 10 lbs in one week” – This is unrealistic and unhealthy for that matter. Don’t set unrealistic goals for your body. When you don’t meet them, it will only discourage you more. Aim to set goals based on performance factors rather than superficial/physical factors. Examples of great goals are: “I want to run a 10k in 2 months” or “I want to be able to complete 30 push-ups with proper form”.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. People come in different colors, shapes, sizes, ethnicity’s, religions, personalities, etc. Avoid comparing your body to others because no two people can ever be alike. We all have a different body type and that’s what makes us all unique. Admire the role models in your life because of their success and accomplishments rather than their external physique.
- Exercise and nourish for health. Find a form of physical activity that makes you want to move. You don’t have to be a gym rat to be physically fit. Hiking, walking, swimming, dancing, underwater basket-weaving? – whatever the activity, do what motivates you to stay healthy. Provide your body with healthy nourishment through food. Instead of restricting foods, think about what foods you can add into your diet to increase overall health.