Does A Long Look In The Mirror Scare — Or Inspire – You?

An Etruscan mirror encased in bronze decorated...
An Etruscan mirror. Twas ever thus...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

From one of my favorite sites,

This morning I got out of the shower, walked to my room naked and stood for a solid 15 minutes looking in my long mirror at my naked body. It’s really amazing what I noticed. I have kinda flabby arms, I never noticed that I had some muscle in there. I found a big freckle on my right breast and a birth mark on my left thigh, things I never knew I had.

Why did I never know? I’ve never really stared at my body before. I don’t have terrible self-esteem, but I don’t have great self-esteem either, so why have I never done this before?

While looking at myself, completely exposed I thought “I love my body.” I really do. Yeah, I have a stomach, bigger thighs, my legs aren’t shaved and always have some sort of bruise or scratch on them and my arms are big and my nails are bitten, and I could think of many other things that are wrong with me but so what? By thinking of all these things am I really helping myself? Is my image really that important?

So then I just had this extreme loving thought towards myself. That I love my body, I DO love my curves and my back spots and my bigger arms and my freckles. This was then slammed down a second later by another voice in my head asking why? Why should I love this? There was so much disgust in this voice, I was shocked. How could I have such a loving moment to myself then followed immediately asking myself why I should ever feel such love towards myself when I look this way?

I make it a point to look at myself in a full-length mirror in broad daylight every day. Like millions of others, I’m trying to lose weight so it’s not pure vanity, but necessity. But unless you have a “perfect” body — and even models think they’re flawed — it’s often not amusing. No one wants to face “failure” head-on, but if you’re otherwise healthy yet have let your body turn to flab and jiggle, you’ve got some thinking to do.

Aging and bearing multiple children take their toll. But go to the right gym, pool or yoga class and you’ll find women, and men, in their 60s, 70s, 80s, who are still working it. Women are so constantly barraged in the West about the hideousness of wrinkles, sags or loss of muscle tone that a mirror’s judgment can feel frightening.

And women in many cultures are taught our bodies are a source of shame, something to flaunt sexually or cover up, but never acceptable  — let alone valuable and worth loving — in all their fleshly corporeality. Men, still, often get a pass.

But the mirror isn’t the best judge of your body. It’s useful if you’re heading out for a professional meeting or date — it will help you catch any stains, tears, a rip in your stockings — but it’s not a place to obsess. Health and strength are key, not being skinny or Botoxed.

Having studied ballet and jazz for decades, I know that a mirror is simply a tool. It offers you information and feedback on your alignment, line, grace, turnout, epaulement.

I think two groups of women are consistently ahead of this curve — moms and athletes. Having used, relished, tested their bodies’ strength and capacity, we know our body is also a determined, sturdy vessel, a smoothly-functioning machine. It can be both a tower of strength and a soft, comforting place of nurture.

Is your mirror friend, foe or neutral?

8 thoughts on “Does A Long Look In The Mirror Scare — Or Inspire – You?

  1. inmyhumbleopinion

    Lately, I’ve been seeing more of my mother and less of me in the mirror; not a bad thing necessarily, just–well, OLDER. I’m trying to embrace my laugh lines and I’ve been letting my hair go salt and pepper for quite some time now. I like it.

    If I were to go under the knife for anything–which I won’t–I’d love to have gravity-defying breasts again. But I’m not willing to undergo unnecessary surgery to do it. Instead, I’ve become a Spanx and supportive bra convert. 😉

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  3. Marjie Killeen

    Caitlin, If you want to see someone who is absolutely thrilled with looking at herself in the mirror, check out the video I just posted on my page.

  4. If you’d really like to see yourself, have a near and dear friend take a picture of you. I wonder if that’s how people see me? If so, good god I’m sorry, hahaha! Seriously though, it’s really interesting to see yourself from that angle. Either you’re really baffled and amused, or you’ll really cringe. I was a little of both, but I found what needed fixing in a heartbeat. I’ll say this, I don’t look at my back in a mirror much!

  5. Caitlin Kelly

    One of the scarier elements of being an author now is that you are absolutely expected to be fab on TV and at public events, i.e. being visually scrutinized by thousands or millions of strangers. You may write the whole thing in your PJs in bed but when it comes time to sell that sucker, you’re ON whether you’re ready or not.

    Nasty isn’t a mirror — it’s doing your own make-up and then being seen on HD TV. Shriek. I learned the hard way not to wear black and never to wear a short-sleeved shirt or be shot from the side.

    Other than that, I’m good to go.

  6. Pingback: Mirrors and Photographs « sliver of java

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