Mirror work is the next important step on from the She Looks Great (SLG) exercise.
It is a key activity: meaning one of the handful of dates that really make the difference to your body confidence.
I suggest you leave between 4 and 7 days between your first She Looks Great outing and this work. Of course you need to do SLG every day. It is the groundwork for mirror work.
If you feel you need longer, then by all means take your time...however, don’t leave it too long. The point of many of the dates in the BCP are to challenge your conception of what is acceptable/unacceptable, and that involves some discomfort - maybe a lot. You know what they say: there ain’t no change in the comfort zone.
So let’s get to it!
Why Do Mirror Work? A Story
When I was 15 I went on holiday to France and spent the day at my penpal’s house. Compulsive eating, self-loathing and body hatred were by this point all very big parts of my identity.
At one point I was wandering round her house and at the end of the hallway I saw a boy about my age. I remember thinking “Who’s that big fat boy in orange trousers?”... before realising with horror that I was looking not at another teenager, but into a mirror. I was the one in orange trousers.
(The real horror of the situation is not that I made this mistake. No, reader reader, the REAL horror of this little scene was that these were MC Hammer pants. If you are fortunate enough to not know what I am talking about here, just google ‘em!)
Over the years I have noticed in myself and others what I can only describe as mirror dysmorphia.
Body dysmorphia is when you have an inaccurate perception of your body shape. It is generally illustrated by the very well worn image of an anorexic looking in a mirror and seeing a much bigger version of her or himself.
Who the hell are people kidding here? The whole world has body dysmorphia.
Mirror dysmorphia is what I experienced that day in France. A total inability to recognise yourself in a mirror.
I have also experienced it as a kind of mini shock catching myself in the reflection of a shop window. Is that really me? Do I actually look that big? I have thought on so many occasions.
This went hand in hand with a reluctance to look in mirrors generally.
I am not the only person to experience this. A few years ago, I led a course on eating change and two of the women present reported to me that they often had this sense of not recognising themselves in unfamilar mirrors and shop windows.
The idea behind mirror work is to make looking in the mirror a normal thing; a neutral or positive act. I know how terrifying that prospect will be for some (many?) of you reading this, so we are going to use the staircase approach big time here. Little and often is the key to making seeing your reflection a neutral (and eventually positive) experience.
What To Do On This Date
AKA How to Do Mirror Work
STEP #1: GET A MIRROR
You need a full length mirror (If you haven't got one, start planning how you will get hold of one).
STEP #2: POSITION FOR LITTLE AND OFTEN
Put the mirror where you are going to be walking past it as often as possible. You want to aim to catch fleeting glimpses of yourself in it multiple times a day.
I have my mirror on the landing of my house, positioned so that I see myself walking towards it every time I need to go downstairs, which is quite often because my home office is upstairs and the kettle and teabags are downstairs!
STEP #3: THE QUICK COMPLIMENT
Every time you walk past the mirror and catch that fleeting glimpse of yourself, say out loud I look great.
It may well feel as forced and artificial as the SLG exercise does initially. But do it anyway. They work on exactly the same principle: you are telling Cavebrain that you are acceptable.
If I look great is too challenging, here are some more neutral compliments/statements you can try:
My .... look(s) good/ strong / muscular
I see my ....
I am walking
I am grateful for my body/ legs
You can graduate to I look great later on.
STEP 4: WATCH THIS !
If step 3 was a little challenging, have no fear, because the MC Hammer pants dance is here! No matter how much self criticism you might have, you'll NEVER look as stupid as these gold-bottomed groovers... 😉
If this date is challenging, stick with it. It WILL get easier. You may need to bribe yourself with a reward or two as explained in the date on motivation
I am very keen to find out everyone else's experience over the years with mirrors. For you, has it been the nightmare I used to experience? Do you recognise mirror dysmorphia in yourself? Are unfamiliar mirrors and shop windows etc more difficult to look in - or easier?
Please reply to the email that you got for today's date and let me know what you history with mirrors is. I really want to know if there are any common patterns for women.
Harriet says: I have had the mirror on my landing for about a year now, but pre the BCP, I was hyper critical everytime I walked past it. I noticed that I felt better about my body quite quickly, but it is still uneven and definitely depends on what I am wearing. This doesn’t particularly worry me, because changing your clothes is a pretty fast way to feel better! (June 2019)
UPDATE August 2019 My body confidence has always been at its lowest looking in hotel mirrors. It has been a rerun of the orange trousered France experience. It really affected my holiday. However, this month, I stayed in two different hotels and although I didn't particularly feel great looking in the mirrors there, it did not dent my self-esteem like in the past. I call this a massive triumph, after only 8 - 10 weeks of the BCP.
Lynn didn't even own a mirror before we started the Rumspringa. After a few weeks she reports: I have put the mirror downstairs to get more used of it. I do find it really helps. It is still a conscious effort and sometimes a struggle. Sometimes I see myself and I say 'Oh look at your strong legs - you look great'; at other times I cringe.
Cindy said: I looked in the mirror this morning and I thought "Ooh, your skin looks nice" because I wasn't wearing make up.
The Body Confidence Project So Far
Where are you now? Questionnaire