Dismayed at what you see when you look in the mirror? It does not have to be that way...
It happens to so many of us: we look in the mirror, a photo of ourselves, or a reflection in a shop window and say ‘ugh! I hate the way I look!’ At each opportunity we zoom into what we don’t like, such as the thighs or hips or big feet, or whatever feature that seems to be wrong.
Why do we do this, and why does it matter, and why is it so painful every time?
Image consciousness helps us to remember everyday grooming, good posture, and appropriate clothing. But it can backfire when we start to believe that it is all not good enough. It’s almost as though we fear being rejected so we’ll reject ourselves first. This very distinct pain creates a deeper feeling of separation from Self. Separation can be a very scary emotion, for example, separation from community, money, possessions, spouse, or children. And separation from Self is lonelier still.
Looking in the mirror and disliking one’s self image is the experience of a separation from one’s true core being. The ‘real me’ is hiding inside and everything else is just yuk, at least according to the inner judgmental chattering voice. The same feeling of separation and anxiety is exactly the same one that impulsively reaches for the box of cookies in the late evening hours, adding to a spiral of desolation!
How can this change?
Below are four exercises that can relax the mind, ease the grip that negativity holds on you, and create a positive frame of mind:
1. Close your eyes for one minute and go inside your body. It might seem like a dark and strange place, but it is yours, and yours to keep. Travel around your body to your heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines. Can you see and hear how all of that is working tirelessly for you, 24 hours a day? Bodily functions form a complex, perfect operating system you don’t even have to think about. Visit your body, say hi, say thanks, say I’m sorry for not appreciating and supporting you while you work so hard for me.
2. Write a list of all the very cool things you do with your body. You can draw a picture, bake a cake for your friend, hug a child, dance, tell a joke, heal others, plant flowers, go outside to look at the sunset. Without letting the ego take over, just mull over how amazing you are.
3. Write another list of what you DO like about your body. Pretty hands, long legs, bright eyes? The list should have at least three body parts on it, or features such as pretty hair, special smile, or ears you can wiggle to make others laugh.
4. Honor your Spirit. In a class on the 5 Tibetan Rites, a series of daily exercises for mind and body, our teacher mentioned that the body is a home, or temple, for the soul. The daily Rites are to keep it in good condition so that the spirit inside feels invited to stay for as long as possible, not voluntarily leaving to reincarnate elsewhere. Although this topic is too rich for a brief article, just think what it would be like to invite your spirit to stay with you as long as possible because your mental, emotional and physical state is peaceful, positive, and harmonious. Imagine being a spirit inside a stressed out, un-clean body, listening to unappreciative thoughts and bad words all day long! Life is seen as a privilege in this context, and to be respected appropriately.
Feel better? Re-read the list above to see what most stands out for you. Now take action, even if it is a 10 minute walk during your lunch break. Feel your negative self-talk dissolve and disappear. Join others in their quest for integrated living - we'll see you there!