Every time I’ve ever tried on a swim suit in a department store, I have stared at the mirror in the dressing room horrified. I would almost always start to think that the store was clearly trying to dissuade me from my purchase by having the most unflattering mirrors and fluorescent lighting that gave me that lovely seasick, greenish hue. I’d always leave saying, “You know, if I owed a store, I’d have the nicest mirrors, with soft, diffused pink lighting in the dressing room. People would want to shop, and buy things, at my store.” Ironically, recently a product called the Skinny Mirror was pitched on the TV show, The Shark Tank, and the entrepreneur didn’t get a deal as it was viewed as tricking people into thinking they looked better than they really did. It got me thinking.
Mirrors are a funny thing, as a simple piece of glass that’s supposed to show your reflection, can often be more than a bit skewed and in completely different directions. Before losing 96 lbs., I knew I needed to lose weight, but looking back at my “before” pictures, I couldn’t possibly have truly seen that image staring back at me. Even now at my goal weight, I’m not exactly staring like Narcissus admiring my reflection either. It’s an odd feeling to have a lurking distrust of yourself to do an honest and fair appraisal. Like Jacob Marley saying to Scrooge, “Why do you doubt the evidence of your own eyes?” I think I’m not alone in having a little body dysmorphia, and in some how having the ability to both turn a blind eye and yet be a harsh critic. I have written about my “aha moment” many times, and explained how the one size fits all robe didn’t fit me that fateful day at the spa. It was that moment of being uncomfortably faced with my actual circumstances that sparked my “twelve man over the top rope battle royal” against being overweight.
After I lost about 50 pounds, I attended a good friend’s wedding, and I remember being so excited about fitting into this floral dress and feeling great about losing essentially five dress sizes! I look at the same picture now and I’m not sure what to think, as it seems unrecognizable to me as being me.
Like most topics I write about, I consult my friends in what I’ve come to call my own “martini market research.” One friend said she remembers reading about Maria Kang, the “fit mom” from facebook, and my friend said it wouldn’t matter if she lost all the weight she needed to, as she still wouldn’t be beautiful like Maria. I got mad, as my friend is beautiful, and then I got sad that she didn’t think so. Then I got mad again as the motivation to be fit and healthy shouldn’t be a beauty contest. I wanted to quote Cindy Crawford during an interview where she said, “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.” I know this much, I think I look better now than I did ninety-six pounds ago.
Another friend said she thinks that she looks better in a mirror than in pictures. I thought this was interesting, as even on the rare occasion when I like a picture of myself, if I look too long at it, I start to criticize my image. Maybe looking in the mirror is like highway hypnosis, where you drive on the familiar route, and suddenly you’re at your destination and you don’t really remember the drive there. Maybe you’re so used to seeing what you see, that it takes a fresh route to see things differently. Maybe the lyrics of Baz Luhrmann in Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen) are accurate in that, “You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.” How many times do you catch yourself saying “I wish I was as fat as the first time I thought I was fat.”?
So, I’m not sure what you see when you look in the mirror. Whether your view is focusing on some perceived imperfection or you’re so used to seeing what you see, that you’ve stopped trying for anything different, but what I’d hope you try to see are all the possibilities.