Arriving for our annual visit at my father-in-law's new apartment in Sao Paulo last year I was disappointed to find no full length mirror. All his girlfriends complain about it, he joked.
As a Style Coach I know that women and their relationship to mirrors is no lighthearted matter. On a personal shopping trip, one of my clients wouldn't try on clothes at a particular boutique as she says the mirrors were too unflattering. Another woman revealed to me during a discussion on body image how unpleasant it was for her to sit in front of a mirror at the hairdresser looking at herself for an hour. During a wardrobe editing session I learnt from a very attractive woman that she only takes glances in her mirror and always from the side as it makes her feel insecure about her shape and looks.
If this sounds familiar to you in any way it shouldn't come as a surprise. Research shows that 80% of woman are dissatisfied with what they see in the mirror and overestimate their size. Men have an easier time; they are either happy with or disinterested in their reflection.
So what is it about the mirror that has such power to make you feel good or bad about your appearance? After all, this is only a two dimensional image and in no way captures the real you. The answer lies in body image (how we see ourselves in our mind's eye) which is created more by state of mind, beliefs and social conditioning than by physical reality.
See if you relate to the following:
Have you ever noticed that when you are in a positive mood you like your reflection better than you do when you wake up in a bad frame of mind or have had a really frustrating day?
Do you look at yourself unfavorably after eating a chocolate or high calorie meal? Are you influenced by what advertising and media dictate about beauty? (We all do, but it pays to remember that the current media ideal of thinness is achievable by less than 5% of the female population).
Do you hear teasing voices from your childhood about your shape or size or your mom being critical of your appearance?
So how can we learn to accept our reflection and get a healthier view of what we see in the mirror? Here are a few of my tips:
You are the only one to see yourself this way
When you look in the mirror it's likely you are very close up to it and are seeing every imperfection magnified. In your daily life no one (except your partner) sees you from this range and so it's highly probable that they cannot notice the flaws which seem so pronounced to you. Remember this and you will take a kinder view of your face or body close up.
Take note of your mind games
Don't approach the mirror with your negative beliefs about yourself in mind. If you say to yourself, "I'm fat", "I'm wrinkly" then you will look for proof to reinforce your belief. Have a more positive self-image and you will notice the difference when you look at yourself.
Practice having a positive self-image
The way to start is by identifying something you do like about yourself when you look in the mirror. If you do this on a daily basis you will start to drown out negative thoughts you have about your appearance and get a healthier perspective on your body.
Use a full length mirror
Because advertising encourages us to look at our bodies in sections so we can buy products to solve particular imperfections we also spend time obsessing about individual bits we don't like. Instead, look at your body in its entirety and appreciate the complete, unique you.
Mirrors are only pieces of glass
Remember, your reflection doesn't define you. You are a person with many different facets and attributes that can't be seen in the mirror.
Elana Shap is a certified Style Coach trained by the Style Coaching Institute, UK. You can follow her tips and style comments on Facebook – Elana Shap Style Coach.