Making Friends With the Mirror
The mirror has never been my friend. In this, I am like approximately 91% of American women. Too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, there are endless ways that we can pick apart our appearance. It would be easy to place blame. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of causality to go around. Media, peer pressure, marketing… somehow it always ends with me, staring in the bathroom mirror. The magazines aren’t there, the commercials are silent, I am judge and jury. As Eleanor Rosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” How we feel about our bodies is a choice, and for me, I choose to accept that which I cannot change.
It would be easy to make this about the obvious problems. The skyrocketing obesity reaching down from adulthood into teens and children juxtaposed with increasing images of bodies that would be considered severely underweight by BMI index tables. This has created an unhealthy cycle that feeds a multi-billion diet industry, but it is also an unhealthy cycle that gets the ample attention that it deserves. Barring the insensitive and ignorant asshats that minimize the issue to “they should just stop stuffing their face” or “they should just lose weight”, important size positive messages get support (even if they are undermined by the media and marketing conglomerates). The general public understands why the negative body image is an issue.
The harder issue to address are the ones that we face alone with our mirror. Not long ago, I was introduced to the term “skinny fat”. There are two main ways to use this term. There is a real medical use, people within a healthy BMI range but still metabolically obese and/or pre-diabetic. It is more often used, however, to describe someone who is thin but not lean enough. I am 5'9" and usually a size 4 to 6. In a country plagued by obesity, I am one of the 5% that fits into the media’s portrayal of what the body should look like. I should have no trouble standing in front of the mirror and few know why I don’t like to.
There’s no such thing as too rich or too thin… right? Wrong. While I can cut a decent picture in clothes, it is very difficult for me to make friends with my body undressed. I am boney, and where I am not boney, I have loose skin. It is easy for me to stand there and pick on my body. My legs are too long. I don’t like my thigh gap, but at the same time, I don’t like the slightly loose skin on the inside of my thighs and want to tighten that up… which would increase my thigh gap. I don’t have much of an ass. My hipbones show. I need to strengthen my core… I can pick myself apart with ease. It takes concentration to pull myself out of that loop. It is hard to remind myself that other people don’t see my body the way I do, that other people are usually too busy fixating on their own perceived flaws to focus on mine.
See how easy it is to do, how the words flow when tearing your body apart. These are the words I am willing to commit to the forever existence of the Internet, nothing compared to the thoughts and hatred that used to flow as I faced the mirror. It was never limited to my body. My lips were too thin, my hair was too long, too short, too thick, too thin, too curly, too straight… weeks, maybe months, of my life spent fighting with the image staring back at me, the image pleading with me to just accept, to love.
It seems so counter intuitive in our culture of narcissism. Our Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram accounts filled with selfies. Even those selfies hold the proof, however. It started with the “Myspace Angle”… camera up, head tilt, almost anyone could shave off pounds. Duck lips. Holding the phone high to make eyes look bigger, reduce weight in the face. The 3/4 head angle slightly tilted that flatters almost everyone. Filters and special effects that can camouflage all kinds of perceived flaws. Special make up, highlighters, lowlights, strobing, to not only make your selfie look better but to make your face look more like it does in your selfie filters.
Stop. All of it. Yes, easier said than done. I would know, I have done it, do it, struggle with it. Stand in front of the mirror and accept the body you have. Find the parts of yourself that you like. Try to understand that everyone has a body, that no body is “perfect”, that even the bodies you envy belong to people standing in the mirror hating them. Stop filtering your face, understand that what you see as imperfections other people see as beauty. Everybody is beautiful. Stop the self abuse. Practice love.
Practice love. More important than you would think. Take care of yourself, actively. Spend the time and money on yourself. Moisturize your skin. Drink plenty of water. Treat yourself to those things that make you feel better, make you feel sexy. Me, I’m a waxing addict. Every two weeks I get my “paws and claws” done religiously. I know what products and makeup I like and I am not afraid to spend money on the good stuff. Why? Because I’m worth it. Spend the money to dress the body you have, accentuate instead of hiding. Good shoes. I love good lingerie. Making yourself do that can start to change your mindset. It will start to spread. You will start to feel better about yourself.
This is about honesty. Honestly, the mirror and I are no longer enemies but I wouldn’t call us friends. Not yet. We are frienemies. Face to face, we are all tight like that. In the darker corners of my mind, yes, the thoughts are still there. It is a process. Understanding is an important step though. I understand that wanting a body I will never have does nothing but drag me down. I eat the best I can. I move my body, treat it right, give it the love it deserves, and accept it for what it is. When I get compliments, I accept them instead of using them as an excuse to think of all the things wrong with me. I focus on the positive. I live. Try it, make the mirror your friend, because it is a terrible enemy.