How To Change Your Relationship With The Mirror
Updated: Jun 7
By: Nicole Bentley, LCSW
Mirrors can be both wonderful and useful, especially when used appropriately for grooming or decorative purposes. However, some of us may find that as time passes, we have developed an unhealthy relationship with the mirror. But how do we know if our relationship with the mirror has become toxic?
Below are a few criteria:
You regularly go out of your way to check yourself in the mirror to make sure you look okay, OR you regularly go out of your way to avoid mirrors out of fear of seeing yourself
You experience distress and unease if you are not able to gain easy access to a mirror to check your appearance
You experience negative or judgmental self-talk while looking in the mirror
When you look in the mirror, you tend to focus on what you don't like, rather than noticing what you do like
When you look in the mirror, you focus on specific parts of your body and wish for them to look differently
When you look in the mirror, you tend to see one body part as representing your entire body. For example, whenever you look in the mirror, your eyes might be immediately drawn to your stomach and you may begin to believe that others also only see your stomach when they look at you
Time spent looking in the mirror starts to pull your attention away from other valuable life enhancing activities
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you might have an unhealthy relationship with the mirror. Now that you know where you stand with the mirror, let’s talk about how you can improve the relationship.
Assess if you would benefit from looking in the mirror more or less often. For example, if you are a person who goes out of your way to look in the mirror several times per day to assess how you look, try decreasing your mirror time. On the other hand, if you find yourself avoiding mirrors out of fear of seeing what you look like, work on increasing your time in front of the mirror.
Try shifting your patterns when in front of the mirror. For example, if you are a person who looks right at your thighs when you step in front of a mirror, practice looking at your face, then move down your body. If you always start off turned to the side to check the shape of your stomach, challenge yourself to only face forward. By shifting how you interact with the mirror, you will be breaking the very patterns that turned your relationship sour in the first place.
Adopt a non-judgmental stance while looking in the mirror. Practice describing only facts such as color, texture and function. For example, starting at the top of your head and working your way down, “I have brown hair, blue eyes, a freckle on my nose, my hands have soft skin and my legs allow me to walk from place to place”.
Practice body gratitude. Every time you look in the mirror, challenge yourself to name three things you are grateful for from your body. For example, “thank you voice for allowing me to sing today, thank you hair for keeping my head warm today, and thank you hands for helping me make an art piece today”.
Adjust your self talk. How we talk to ourselves while looking at ourselves is a very intimate and important part of our self-concept. If you find yourself judging parts of your body, try instead to take a deep breath, place a gentle and compassionate hand on that body part, and express compassion to that body part. For example, if you dislike your upper arms, practice placing a compassionate hand on your arms, taking a deep breath and expressing your compassion and appreciation for your arms. Observe your arms as they are in that moment, rather than wishing they were different.
These tips will help you to start the journey of changing your relationship with the mirror. However, it’s important to note that this this journey can be long and will evolve over time. It’s important to periodically assess how you feel in front of the mirror, and how that is affecting your self-concept.