The Power Of The Mirror In Body Dysmorphia
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Mirror, Mirror, Off My Wall

Why I covered up my mirrors and how it has changed my relationship with my body

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Mirror, Mirror, Off My Wall

My body and I have been at war for a long time. I try to manipulate it with food and exercise to conform it to my own distorted expectations. It ultimately fails in some way and forces me to return to its natural set point.

Most women, and often men, that I know the deal with some form of body distortion or dissatisfaction. For some people it is as simple as wishing they could lose five pounds, or that they were a few inches taller. For others it is as extreme as not being able to see themselves in a realistic manner - their reflection is always morphed to exaggerate their biggest insecurities.

As a member of the latter camp, I know all too well the daily struggle that comes with getting ready each day and facing the mirror. I'm not just insecure about my body. I literally do not see my body in the same way that others do.

Body dysmorphia is the technical name for this phenomenon and it's applicable to any part of your body - nose, smile, stomach, hips. The mind and our emotions are more powerful than we realize. Body dysmorphia changes the way you perceive yourself to highlight your "flaws".

For a long time, I would spend hours a day in front of the mirror. Looking at my reflection from this or that angle, I prayed that I would see something different. I never did.

The catch is that even when my body did change and I knew logicallythat it had changed, I was unable to see it. It became a dangerous cycle of losing weight, being unhappy because I couldn't see a change in the mirror, and resolving to lose more weight. That cycle quickly consumed me and before I knew it my body was something I no longer controlled; it controlled me.

In therapy to address eating and body image among other things, I was encouraged to find ways to sit with the discomfort of seeing a distorted reflection. The idea of this exposure therapy, as it is called, was that the more I forced myself to accept my body as I saw it, the more I would learn to make peace with it. Eventually, as my relationship with my body healed, I became more aware of how my body really looked as opposed to the distorted version.

After years of exposure therapy and mirror-work and radical acceptance - all therapeutic techniques that are aimed at shifting from a mindset of controlling or changing my body to one of listening to and respecting my body - I still frequently look in the mirror and see something other than reality. The more I go back to it or the longer I look, the more distorted this image becomes.

While I think it was important for me to gain an acceptance and appreciation of my body, I know that during times of high-stress my mind will revert to old coping mechanisms that put the focus on my weight and image. For me, a mirror is no longer a tool used to appreciate myself, but a constant temptation for my eating disorder to play tricks on me.

I didn't bring my full-length mirror to school this year. My mirror at home is covered in post-its with positive affirmations and pictures that make me happy. I avoid excessive time in dressing rooms and fitting rooms, or in bathrooms that have full-body mirrors.

I don't avoid my reflection altogether, because avoidance is not the solution to this problem. I do still do mirror-work and exposure when I am mentally and emotionally capable. What I have done by limiting the presence of mirrors in my life is to make my interactions with my reflection mindful.

I am not getting lost aimlessly staring at or criticizing my reflection anymore. The mirror does not hold the same power over me that it once did. When it stopped being a constant fixture in my environment, it stopped holding so much meaning.

I find other ways to appreciate and evaluate my body now. I notice how my muscles work when I dance. I pay attention to how my clothes fit and wear things that make me feel good. I admire the way my body tells me what it needs, whether that is rest or nourishment. I am learning to value my body in the flesh, not just in a piece of glass.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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