The Mirror

We have a new mirror in our house. It occupies the wall across from our bedroom door, so I see myself in it every time I walk in and out of my room.

This new mirror is the first and only full length mirror in our house. My in-laws gave it to us when they decided they didn’t need it anymore. I took it eagerly, as I’d always wanted something I could see my outfit in before I left the house.

For three years the only two mirrors we’ve had were the one above the bathroom sink and one mounted above the mantel that serves as the headboard of our bed (we sleep in what is supposed to be our living room). So for three years, I couldn’t see my entire reflection unless I stood on my toilet or my bed. Needless to say, I didn’t catch a glimpse of my entire body much.

Now I see it all the time–at least ten time a day. And you know what? I don’t really like it. I don’t like what I see and I don’t like seeing it all the damn time. Seeing my own reflection on the regular has me thinking about how I look. A lot. And I don’t like a lot of the things I’m thinking.

I have never had a great relationship with body image. I almost phrased that to say that I’ve never had a great relationship with my body, but that isn’t true. I’ve always felt my body was strong and capable, even when I haven’t loved how it looked. It’s not that I don’t respect my body, it’s that I don’t love the way it looks.

It has taken me two decades–and some miracle depression medication–to let go of my (at one time severe) compulsive eating and obsessions with food. I don’t want to EVER go back there. Right now I feel I’m in a relatively good place: I eat because I am hungry and I exercise because it makes me feel good. I don’t want to have to change either to change my body. My clothes fit fine, I feel strong, I don’t think about food except to plan upcoming meals, and I look forward to getting my sweat on. Sure I wish I ate healthier food and I wish I could work out more, but I know that right now, this is what I am capable of, and it works.

So it’s really pissing me off that I’m not happy with my own reflection.

I have friends, both in real life and online, that are transforming themselves and/or already look amazing. Am I comparing myself with how they look? Or what they are doing? The thing is, I know I’m doing all I can do right now–I can’t take on some restrictive diet or add more workouts to my regimen. What I’m doing really is working for me. Mostly my brain knows that, but this little voice whispers… what could you look like if you did what they do?

I’d probably look really fucking good, but it would cost me more time and mental energy than I have right now (and honestly-for me-probably more than it would be worth). At this stage in my life, I simply can’t afford to do more. And there are a lot of years ahead of me (hopefully) when I can make eating better and exercising more a bigger priority. It’s okay for that to be something I tackle farther down the road.

Because right now, I feel good. I look good. I don’t need to make things harder. Sure there are parts of me I’d like to change, but you know what? When I was starving myself and exercising like crazy–when I weighed 125lbs and wore a size 4 (in Europe!)–there were parts of myself I wanted to change. My abs will never be flat, my stomach roll will never disappear, my stretch marks will always ravage my abdomen, my torso will never be long. My body type, and history, just won’t allow me to achieve what I’ve foolishly embraced as the absolute ideal. (And yes, I’m attempting to alter that ideal to better match reality, but it’s hard to override the image I’ve been served for a lifetime).

I’ve worked so hard to feel good about how my body looks, it’s nerve wracking that one mirror placed in a well trafficked area of my home could undo it.

And yes I know I could take down the mirror. The trouble is, it looks really good where it’s been hung, and I gouged some pretty sizable holes into the wall hanging it, so I’d need to find a pretty decent piece of art to replace it. Also, I don’t want to let this part of myself win, the part that whispers shitty things in my ear after a big meal or when I’m bloated. I want to be able to see myself and feel good regardless. I don’t want feeling good about my body to depend on it not being visible.

Clearly I have a lot more work to do, and frankly I’m tired of this kind of work. But I recognize that it’s some of the most important work I can do, especially now that I have a daughter in my house. The reality is I’m probably never going to look better than I do now–and I look damn good! So I’m going to start telling myself that, even when I’m having a hard time believing it.

Do you have a full length mirror in your home? How does seeing yourself make you feel?

17 Comments

  1. Yes, you do look damn good!

    Here’s the thing, and you already know this, very few of us are completely happy with how we look. And…. Very few of us look as great as others think we look. I have ONE very large saddle bag that refuses to shrink, no matter what I do. I’m terribly lopsided in my hips and I CANNOT wear a bathing suit without a shirt, it’s that bad (even friends and my husband get it – they’ve seen it.) No one on FB or who reads my blog would know it’s there, but it is. If it wasn’t in a “porno” location, I would honestly post a photo of it on my blog, but I can’t get an effective picture of it without showing too much. I’ve tried! My thought is that they make clothes for a reason…. To cover the parts we truly hate. Ha! 😁

    My level of fitness is because it’s my hobby and… I have the kids nap time to do it. If I worked outside the home, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without getting up at 5:00 to work out and I’m not sure I’d do that every day. Maybe I would, but we’ll never know. What you’re doing works for you and you enjoy it – and that’s what matters.

    Damn mirrors. I analyze myself with them all the time. It’s sad. I’ll always have body image issues. 😣

    Keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re doing great!

    PS… I HAD to do my major transformation because I was NOT in a healthy way. You’ve seen my before photos… That was not ok for health reasons. Yes, I went extreme, but I really had no choice if I wanted to attempt a healthier lifestyle.

    1. I think sometimes about waking up at 5am to work out, but our house is small and there is no space I can do it without waking up other people in my family. And also, I would be miserable getting up that early–I was when I had to for work last year. So I KNOW that I COULD get up at 5am to workout more, but I just don’t want to, and it’s hard with the way my house is set up. And I need to be okay with that.

      And you’re right that we all have parts of ourselves that we don’t love, and that we look different to others than we look to ourselves (and we see others differently than we see ourselves). You are wise. Thanks for reminding me of all of this.

  2. And might I mention, you have great skin! You do! flawless. Anyhow, I think that what’s important is that you feel good and look good!

    I’m able to only work out two times a week and that’s during my lunch hour. The rest of the time I have to watch what I eat just so I can have a beer here or there.

    I like your confidence! Don’t let the mirror win!

    1. I’m only working out three times a week right now, but I’ve increased the total time I work out from 30 minutes to 45, which is good. I’m also doing push-ups and some ab work after every cardio workout, and I added a PiYo core workout once a week. So I’m getting in some good workout time–I’d like to do more, but I’m proud of the time I dedicate to working out (and I make that time more for my mental health than to look good).

  3. Oh body image. I have a post in the works on that. I agree, with seeing amazing transformations in others and thinking, “I need to do that!” but realizing there is no space for that in my current life and the better use of my energy would be to work on acceptance with my body the way it is (I hate HATE HATE and am constantly poking & looking at the diastasis pooch in my belly. I’ve even looked into plastic surgery, I hate it SO MUCH. It completely ruins how clothes look on me because it pooches out constantly no matter how much weight I lose or how toned I get. If I had all the money in the world, I’d seriously consider it)
    You look amazing, BTW, I’ve seen full length pics! I need a full length mirror because I’ve left the house with 2 different shoes or my underwear sticking out, etc… I really look at the mirror only in dim light, especially at my face these days. The reality I see in the bright light does NOT match the picture in my head and while I’m fine theoretically with aging, I’m not a big fan of the stark realities.

    1. “I need a full length mirror because I’ve left the house with 2 different shoes or my underwear sticking out, etc…” <--This. This is exactly why I wanted a full length mirror. I have gotten to work and seen myself in the bathroom mirror and thought, oh no, that is not what I intended... at all. So yeah, I need one, I just wish it weren't right outside my bedroom where I pass it constantly. I really feel great about my body, except my stomach. I'm a classic "apple," and all my weight goes there. I also have a short torso, so shirts fit strangely on me. If I'm wearing something that doesn't cling at all, I look great, but if it shows the shape of my stomach, it's not so great. So yeah, I know I shouldn't complain. I need to learn to accept the way my body looks, because this is probably the best it's ever going to be. 😉

  4. We don’t have a full-length mirror. I wish we did so that I could get a full picture of what I look like before leaving the house. But, even without the mirror I know I don’t like how my body looks right now. But, like you, I can only do so much with a 5yo and a 15mo. When the kids are older, and I can devote a little more time to exercise, then maybe my stretched out poochy stomach can get a little smaller. I just need to be okay with my body right now, find clothes that don’t make me feel fat, and keep living for another day.

    1. “I just need to be okay with my body right now, find clothes that don’t make me feel fat, and keep living for another day.” <-- I love this. I need to do this too.

  5. One thing that happens when you pass a mirror frequently is that finally you will not see yourself in it despite it still being there. However, in the mean time. Often posture makes a big difference. When we see ourselves ‘accidentally’ we may not be standing straight or holding our abs like people in the pictures we see from all media are doing. Also ‘around home’ we may not have make up on or a smile on our faces. Posture, clothes choice (not the stained T-shirt with holes and unmatched bleach spotted pants, minor make up (lipstick or minor eye make up), feeling happy (not grumpy, tired, angry) but happy with a minor smile, all make a huge difference.
    Yes. There is a reason I know this. Once a friend spoke to me about having drunk his morning coffee out of a chipped cup with no handle for 10 years of marriage….. because a new cup would have cost about $2 at that time. False economies. Tiny amounts of makeup and decent casual at home clothes make a difference. And posture is totally free. Shoulders down and erect posture. Helps when you see yourself. Helps your mindset too.

    1. These are all really good tips. I don’t actually wear make up–ever. That’s not true, I wear it about ten times a year when I dress up to go out. Otherwise, I don’t wear it, even to work. And yes, the times when I’m least impressed with how I look I’m wearing lounge clothes that don’t flatter my figure. These are important points to remember. Thanks.

  6. Well the mirrors in our bedroom and in our downstairs (kids’) are large enough.

    I hear you. I had major body issues in my early 39s which led to borderline anorexia and then full blown bulimia. And, oh, to have the body I had then, today!

    But yeah I hear you. I’m in a good place eating disorder-wise–I’ve really moved on. And I’m healthy and at a pretty good weight espec at my age after two kids in my 40s. But–I work out REALLY hard. As in dripping sweat. Because it relieves stress, I like to eat dessert, and I want to look good. But I feel like my body looks like someone who goes on an occasional stroll 2x week vs. someone who works out like I do. (Why does my leg skin look so bad? I do squats, lunges, lift weights, cardio, etc.) And that pisses me off. I have a stomach roll/extra skin that wasn’t there before kids. It’s not so bad when I stand but when I sit or bend over, oy. But I wore a bikini in Hawaii 21 months ago when I weighed 5 lbs more and I intend to wear one again on this year’s (I hope) vacation. So there!

    What’s funny is I’m nearsighted (and now also farsighted too, wtf age) and I don’t wear my glasses at the gym. So I’ll pass myself in the mirrors and think “hey not so bad” then later I’ll put my glasses on to leave and be like “gah! I look awful!”

    1. “And, oh, to have the body I had then, today!” <-- I know I'm going to be saying this in not too many years and I hate the thought that I'm not appreciating what I have now. Because I do look good, and I probably will be wishing I could look like this in ten years, when my metabolism takes a nose dive off the cliff it's clearly milling around. I know what you mean about how your body doesn't look like what you think it should look like, given how much you work out. I feel the same way. My arms look pretty good, but my stomach never seems to get any better, despite spending A LOT of time and energy working on it. But I know that is how my stomach is, and I have to accept it, because that is a hill I will die on without ever feeling content. 😉

  7. No full length mirror and no plans to get one. I make my spouse approve my attire before I leave the house… We have a gigantic mirror behind the sofa and I think I’m going to let the girls decorate it soon so I quit seeing myself in it. I’m down 18 lbs from last year and that’s awesome and even with lumps, still awesome. I either see myself as much thinner than I am or much more overweight in mirrors so they are useless and I quit them.

  8. There’s a reason I don’t have photos of myself on the internet. I have a full-length mirror in our bedroom, and I’m used to that. I don’t like what I see – especially when I’m naked or just in bra and knickers – but I have to accept it. I’m reasonably fit and strong – I work out at the gym regularly, and do yoga – but I am definitely overweight. I have never thought I had a decent body – but I look back at various phases of my life, and feel so sad that I wasn’t happy with my body, even when I was an ideal weight, fit and athletic. I had (have) hips, and however much my hip bones stuck out, I still felt as if I had a belly, just because it wasn’t completely flat when I deliberately slouched. My mother, who has always been thin, had a thing about her “pot belly.” (One of my earliest memories is feeling shame about that.) It definitely scarred me! So one thing I would encourage you to do is never criticise yourself when you’re around your daughter. (Here’s a thought – never criticise your body even to yourself!)

    You look like I dream of looking. I know this only because I’ve seen your wedding pics! Okay? When you catch sight of yourself, stand up straight (I agree with the posture suggestion), look at yourself again, and repeat, “I look damn good!” Because you do. And maybe if you say it enough, you’ll start to believe it.

  9. I do but it is not in a spot where I have to walk by it every day. My “problem mirror” are the mirror elevator doors at work each day. Talk about depressing. For the last 8 years I’ve had to face those every work day – can’t help evaluating my hair, clothes, shoes….in m mind’s eye I used to think I looked pretty good. Now, I have nothing but criticisms. Bums me out.

  10. damn, I used to want a full length mirror but I’m not so sure anymore. I think i’ll stick to polaroids. (random clueless reference…) but seriously, like a previous commenter mentioned, with mirrors in the bathroom or pictures, you pose and your posture etc changes. you’re prepared to take in yourself. It really alters the whole experience, and maybe eventually you’ll get to the point where you don’t even notice the mirror (or you’re used to seeing yourself walking by) and it won’t be a big deal. Because you’re right, you do look great. you’re healthy, at a good weight, eat well, etc. But it sucks to have that hit on your confidence, so hopefully you can figure out away to be able to take it in without judgement.

    I really enjoy reading posts on body image. It’s such a tricky thing, and something I think all of us struggle with. My legs are my enemy, i hate them, but i’m also used to hating them, so I don’t really fight it anymore. I’ve just accepted that I will always and forever have big thighs that rub together. I’m a pear shape and hold my weight there. I am not, however, used to carrying weight in my stomach and that’s driven me crazy since Kate was born. I’m hoping with working out more and clean eating I can whittle down the mom pooch, but, we’ll see. My abs are at least getting stronger (though I haven’t lost any weight) and I’m more comfortable in my skin. it’s always an evolving thing.

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