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Mirror Image

It’s almost 6.30 am and I’m standing at the barre, class will be starting in the next five minutes or so. I glance around the room and realize that apart from the instructor I am the only person set up to work at the front barre.

I turn around & face the back barre which has an almost full line of women ready for class. A couple of them noticed the discrepancy and commented, “it’s those harsh lights, so early in the morning, sometimes it’s hard enough to stand in front of the mirror like that anyway, especially first thing in the morning with no makeup on”. I was stunned, the lady who spoke was stunning, even with no effort and in the early morning with no makeup & wearing workout clothes.

I also went to the same class with a friend, her first words were “ugh the mirrors” I thought nothing of it in that moment, but these feelings are it seems so ingrained into us.

There have been many times over the years that I have found it so hard to look at myself in the mirror & like what I see, too many times I have looked at my own image, both with and without makeup and hated myself, hated what I saw, I only saw how ugly I was, I could always pick out the faults, my hair, my skin, a spot on my face, my teeth. The list was long.

A brief chat followed during which we shared that the hairdressers is another place where she & many others find it hard to look in the mirror and hate what they see.

I remember a conversation with my hairdresser recently in which she said how unusual it was that I returned her gaze in the mirror while we were talking. Apparently, it’s very common for people to look down the whole time or even ask to face away from the mirror. How sad, hearing this really sent a pain deep inside my heart.

My relationship with the mirror changed somewhat once I became an instructor. Now I use the mirror to check my form, make sure my back is flat etc. rather than looking critically. It is a handy tool to be able to glance in to check the rest of the class from different angles to make sure they are safe, especially useful when I am teaching a busy class.

Over the years I have done a lot of work on myself and my self-image. I have been fortunate to have had a lot of help along the way. Thanks to great friends and an amazing therapist.

On my drive back home from class my mind was still racing, why are so many of us women like this? why do we hate ourselves so much? Where did it all start? There seems to be an epidemic of self-disparagement all around us. Do men have this same issue? I am sure many must do.

Where did this self-hatred come from? I know this was one of the first things I worked on with my therapist. I still practice self-affirming comments to myself when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or in a shop window as I pass by. What we tell ourselves is so important. If we have a negative story about ourselves, we need to change our words and change our story.

I was almost home from class when I remembered that my own mother lives without a mirror. When I have visited in the past, I’ve had to dig out an old handheld mirror from one of the chests in the spare room. On one visit I even had to go out and buy a small mirror from the drugstore so that I could “do” my hair and makeup. I remembered asking my mum in frustration, “why don’t you have a mirror?” She replied “why would I want to look at myself? There’s nothing good to see” This morning as I remembered these words, they pierced my soul, I cried for her. I cried for my mother who had also learned to hate herself. She had been taught by her own mother, who in turn had no doubt had the same self-hatred & criticism passed down to her. Passed down from our ancestors, this self-despising and critical spirit. In that moment I could feel the pain of so many generations of women that I would never meet.

This is the same for women and their families all over the world.

I hear this in stories from young girls about how they hate their bodies, young women, women my age (50’s) & even in my yoga classes where I teach seniors, they also don’t want to take a class facing the mirror! This is a multi generational issue.

Let’s make a change; it is time that we stopped with the self-hatred. Can we make this generation the last to inflict so much hurt on itself? It takes time and work, next time you look in the mirror, look for the good. Tell yourself, “Rachel you’re beautiful” please insert your own name😊

Do this again and again, day after day, month after month until you believe it. Am I totally there? No, for me it’s a continual practice & it’s scary putting this out there but I believe that sharing how we really feel is the only way to help put a stop to this and change how we view and value ourselves.

Think for a moment, what would your life, our lives look like if we had no self-hatred? If when we looked at ourselves, we truly believed we were beautiful, if we truly loved ourselves? How would that change how we held ourselves, how we spoke, what we did with our lives? I challenge you today to go to your bathroom mirror or whichever mirror you look in most & write on it, using your first name, stating that you are beautiful, read it out loud whenever you see yourself & notice what changes. It can only be good.

I wrote this thinking of women, please note this applies to all of us whatever our gender.

Allow your newfound self-love to radiate out from you, making a difference in a love starved world.

With much love.

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