Mirror, mirror on the wall… This is the start of the well-known mantra by the Evil Queen in Snow White on her journey to become the fairest of them all. Desperate and crazed to hold the title of most beautiful, she feeds Snow White a poisonous apple in an attempt to kill her. Unfortunately for the Queen, she fails in her quest, ultimately resulting in her own demise.
And with this seemingly innocent fairy tale and others like it, our society’s obsession with beauty, weight, youth, and all-around physical appearance, is ingrained in our thoughts from a ridiculously young age.
While most of us don’t go as far as trying to kill off our competition, I would venture to guess that the vast majority of you reading this have at one point injured your own spirit, pride, and self-esteem with negative self-talk stemming from unrealistic goals and expectations.
If I’m being honest, more times than I’d like to admit I mutter my own mantra as I look at myself in the mirror. It goes something like “mirror mirror on the wall, I am NOT the fairest of them all” and then it’s usually followed with a slew of negative thoughts and harsh words centered around my body, my weight, cellulite, grey hair, my aging skin, etc. When I stop to think about it, I can find the beauty in EVERYONE I meet, no matter their size, age, how they dress or how they look. I wonder why its so easy to look at someone else and see the beauty they have just glowing inside them, but when it comes to myself, the person I know the best, I get stuck on the outside. Even worse I let these thoughts and beliefs about my appearance dictate how I feel about my entire persona. Research shows I’m not alone, 69-84% of women exhibit body dissatisfaction, putting us at risk for depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and eating disorders. Not only that but a study published this year found evidence of body dissatisfaction beginning in girls as young as 3 to 5 years of age. 3 years old!!! To me this is horrific. It appears that their dissatisfaction mirrors that of their mothers. So, ladies, I beg you, let’s break this cycle!
A negative body image is usually a distorted view of reality, but what is real is that it can significantly impact our mood, our performance, and our relationships. And I know, I know… just being positive about your body is easier said than done, but I have some real-world ways to at least take a step in the right direction.
Exercise. Women who exercise tend to have better body images than women who don’t. Research indicates that strength training and yoga are especially good at boosting your body satisfaction.
Turn off the social media. If looking at social media gives you a bad case of comparison-itis, know that you are not alone. Studies show that looking at Instagram pictures of both celebrities and attractive peers left women with worse moods and increased body dissatisfaction. So put away your phone and do something more productive like talk with your loved ones, read a book, get up and take a walk, or close your eyes and practice taking some deeply nourishing breaths.
Focus on your health, rather than the number on the scale. I work with women every day to re-evaluate their goals and motivation for losing weight. And while I do believe it is possible to accept and even love your body how it is now, and still want to change it, making the focus of this journey about health rather than arbitrary numbers is so much more rewarding. You are so much more than the number on the scale or your dress size. Instead, place the focus on how eating healthy makes you feel and how your body grows strong as you work out.
Use positive self-talk. Say it loud and say it proud… I dare you. Look in the mirror and say something nice about yourself. Something that is not related to your image. Are you a wonderful, loving wife? A self-less, caring mother? A person that’s always there for a friend in need? Then say it out loud and say it often. I know if feels silly at first, but this type of practice can have profound effects on your self-worth. So powerful in fact, that I say let’s chant this new and improved mantra together:
Mirror mirror on the wall…. Today I will accept myself once and for all.
Body Image. (n.d.). Retrieved November 9, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/body-image
Brown, Z., & Tiggemann, M. (2016). Attractive celebrity and peer images on Instagram: Effect on women’s mood and body image. Body Image, 19, 37–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.08.007
Perez, M., Diest, A. M. K. V., Smith, H., & Sladek, M. R. (2018). Body Dissatisfaction and Its Correlates in 5- to 7-Year-Old Girls: A Social Learning Experiment. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47(5), 757–769. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2016.1157758
Runfola, C. D., Von Holle, A., Trace, S. E., Brownley, K. A., Hofmeier, S. M., Gagne, D. A., & Bulik, C. M. (2013). Body Dissatisfaction in Women Across the Lifespan: Results of the UNC-SELF and Gender and Body Image (GABI) Studies. European Eating Disorders Review : The Journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 21(1), 52–59. https://doi.org/10.1002/erv.2201