The Tyranny of the Mirror: How to Break Free

by Belinda on December 16, 2014

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Imagine living your life under the constant pressure of an oppressive, harsh and unjust dictator. You’re trapped, miserable, insecure and anxious. You lack the power and self-confidence to break free.

Tragically, there are people living like this today – but sadly in our “free” world, this is how many women are living their lives, under the tyranny of the mirror.

Stop and think about it.

Have you let the mirror dictate to you? Have you allowed it to unduly influence your thoughts and feelings, about yourself, your life and even those around you? Today, how many negative thoughts passed through your mind — that glance in the bedroom mirror while getting ready for work, the quick bathroom stop and skin inspection, the brief glimpse of your reflection as you passed that shop front?

Have you allowed these negative thoughts to influence your decisions in life and the choices you’ve made?

Maybe you feel ashamed – maybe you’re afraid of appearing vain or superficial. Maybe this is something you’ve kept a secret all these years. It’s more common than you think, it’s not your fault and you can break free.

But where did this all start?

Often in our teenage years — I know it did for me.

At twelve, I was tall and pretty, with long blonde hair. Come thirteen, I cut my hair short (think Pink but it wasn’t trendy back then), I suddenly gained two kilos (with cellulite) and much to my distress, developed acne. Overnight I went from a swan to a duck. I became obsessed with my skin. I projected all my body angst onto every pimple that had to be purged with endless squeezing and picking — until my face was a mess. Thus ensued several sad and very unhappy years. Finally while at university, I got the right treatment and my skin cleared up. Miraculously, I lost weight and started feeling better about myself. But while the scars on my face slowly faded, the inner ones did not. And for years, the mirror haunted me.

These types of teenage experiences lead to low self-esteem and obsessive negative thinking. Having no one to talk to about what’s happening, we develop a distorted perception of what we look like in the mirror — only seeing the flaws and not reality.

It’s made worse by things like:

– Perfectionism
– Being teased about our appearance
– Being extremely self-critical
– Having parents who were unhappy with their body and/or did fad diets
– Peer pressure to have a certain “look”
– Feeling insecure and afraid of rejection

a-bit-like-alice-mirror-mirror

It’s no wonder that destructive behaviors often start during our teenage years – like dangerous weight loss methods (fasting, smoking or laxatives), compulsive exercise or avoiding situations because of how we feel about our body.

Feeling the pain yet? Yep, that’s the tyranny of the mirror.

Time to break free and be the best you can be.

I’m going to share some simple tips that have helped me deal with this. But first, I want to share the story of one of my clients.

Pilar, was a sweet twenty one year old I trained in Panama. Pilar, nicknamed, Pili — was the quintessential Latin princess. But despite her good looks and natural sex appeal — she lived in constant turmoil. Cellulite ruled her life, her eating and her health. She’d tried many (dangerous) treatments prior to coming to me, including mesotherapy. For those who don’t know, this is the charming treatment of injecting cellulite areas with various fluids including hydrogen peroxide. I could feel the tiny little bubbles of air under her skin where she’d had the treatment — very scary.

Pili and I worked hard and her cellulite disappeared — but she remained deeply insecure about her appearance — avoiding certain clothes, unable to eat normally and considering unnecessary surgery.

Over time, Pili gradually became more confident and was able to see herself as others did — strong and beautiful, inside and out. However, there are many beautiful women who have horrible self-esteem and hate looking at themselves in the mirror. Even though they have the looks most women would aspire to, their inner world is sad and unhappy.

My point is, no amount of physical beauty or perfection can guarantee inner happiness. In other words, getting the body you’ve always dreamed of — will not set you free from the tyranny of the mirror. Simply because, the problem is on the inside – not the outside. Fix the inside first and the outside will follow.

So, we all have a responsibility to make our peace with the body the universe has given us, and do our best with it. The sooner we come to terms with this, the sooner we can start moving forward to a healthier and happier life.

Do you want to keep living the rest of your life allowing the mirror to dictate to you and rob you of happiness? No.

Here are some simple steps:

1. Start by reflecting on your past experiences. Is there a connection to how you feel about your body? Often something that happened a long time ago is still casting a shadow when you look in the mirror. Just recognizing that will make it a lot easier to let it go.

2. Decide that your body deserves to be treated with respect, love and care. Nurture it, pamper it and it will start to love you back.

3. Break the mirror habit. Give yourself a break from the mirror. Stop the destructive thinking patterns by constantly reinforcing them (looking for evidence in the mirror) — instead let them go. At first it will be hard but like breaking any habit, it will get easier. Set yourself free.

4. Shift your mental energy from focusing on short-term weight loss, correcting physical imperfections or achieving extreme physique goals – to establishing a healthier, more balanced and sustainable lifestyle. Once you do this, you’ll be amazed at how suddenly you start feeling better and you have the energy to make the changes you’ve been wanting to.

5. Increase your serotonin levels. Serotonin is an important brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that influences our sleep, libido, appetite and mood. It’s a powerful way to combat negative thinking, overcome low self-esteem and increase your sense of well-being. Sometimes just a small adjustment like this can have a huge impact.

Ways to increase serotonin:

Eat small, regular meals that include complex carbohydrates (quinoa, lentils or vegetables), a palm sized serve of lean protein (eggs, chicken, red meat) and two tablespoons of healthy fats (avocados, nuts, flaxseed), oils (coconut, avocado, almond, flax, olive) or seeds.

Exercise regularly (at least three times a week). Exercise helps to release powerful feel-good hormones that lift our mood and make us feel happy, less stressed and more relaxed. As a test, look in the mirror after you’ve finished a tough workout and tell me whether you like seeing what’s looking back just a tad more.

Exercise hard! Yes you read it. There is evidence to support the hypothesis that fatigue during exercise results in elevated serotonin. In other words, bust out a sweat! We are not talking extremes, but push yourself just that little bit harder.

Get enough sleep; every hour before midnight is worth two afterwards. Quality sleep is critical to maintaining the ideal hormonal balance so you feel great and function at your best during the day.

Consider bright light therapy. Get daily sun exposure, preferably first thing in the morning (no sunglasses as the full spectrum of daylight must enter the iris). Changing time zones this year upset my circadian rhythm and my sleep patterns were screwed. I was referred to a sleep specialist who recommended thirty minutes of sunshine on waking to reset my body clock. I went for a bush run every morning for four weeks. I started sleeping better with the added benefit of a greater sense of wellbeing due to higher serotonin levels.

Take a natural supplement. Consider the herb rhodiola that slows the breakdown of serotonin, calming stressful feelings, improving sleep, and eliminating fatigue.

Now, even if you choose to do to just three of these things, within just a few weeks you’ll be able to look in the mirror with a lot more confidence, knowing what you’re seeing is a more balanced, healthy and positive view of yourself — and this will bring countless other life changing benefits.

Remember, it’s not your fault the mirror has dictated to your emotions and even ruled your life — but now you know the truth, you have a responsibility to make peace with your body and do your best with it by putting your emotional health and physical well-being first.

The sooner you do that, the sooner you can start moving forward to a happier life.

Your Aussie Transformation Coach
Belinda

P.S. It’s no coincidence that my Get Lean Program embraces all of these serotonin-boosting strategies so if you need help structuring your eating and exercise program to improve your inner and outer self – check out:

Get Lean 90 Day Get Lean Transformation Program <<<

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue January 18, 2015 at 8:03 pm

As always, your insight and compassion for others is a blessing. I just turned 66. I never see posts from women by age but– here’s my story. I knew I was popular all through school. I was always friendly, and felt it was important to make everyone I met, know they were important and noticed- which in HS if paramount! I knew I was fairly attractive although never saw myself as pretty. I didn’t know that others thought i “was beautiful” until much later in life when men that I knew in High School would tell me that I was and what crushes they had on me. (Wish I had known that then-may have changed some dating choices!)
That being said, this article resonated with me. I am not unhappy with the aging process except– My father had a horrible, what we call Turkey Neck, my brother who is five years older and I have both inherited it! Thanks dad!
I never thought I would consider surgery, but for the last 10 years have seen my neck deteriorate! I can remember when my dad was 80 plus years old saying “I wish I had done something about my neck before I got this old! Men also suffer from the mirror image too!
Finally, my husband had heard me complain and fret enough and told me if I wanted surgery to get it scheduled or stop talking about it. Mind you, he loves me no matter what and for that I am truly blessed!
So I made an appt with a plastic surgeon to see what it would cost. WOW! But I thought I would pursue it anyway. Due to some health issues and consequential healing difficulties in the past, I needed to get clearance from my Primary MD. I told my husband I would go by her advice- I trust her and she knows my health very well.
To make this long story shorter-end result, I am not having the surgery. It is simply not wise. The risks are high that I would not heal properly and then I would be REALLY unhappy !
So, I have now decided to “age as gracefully as possible”. Realize how blessed I am to have a supportive and loving husband who tells me I’m beautiful even when I look my worst!
I am so happy I found your site. It is always positive and uplifting. I love the Shiatsu Facial Massage and your toning and cellulite program. I plan to take the next step with your other workouts.
I want to be as healthy and in shape as I can. I know God created me and I am trying to accept my aging neck-my situation could be much worse.
Thanks again for all your valuable information, and thought provoking blogs!

Reply

Belinda January 19, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Hello Sue, I really appreciate you posting and sharing all your wisdom. You are an inspiration to women of all ages….we need to listen to those who’ve walked the path before us. It takes courage to go through the journey you’ve described….to be honest and open, and then make what feels like the right decision – deep down. I’ve found in those situations there is a sense of relief that comes and I can find that place of peace even if the outcome wasn’t what I was hoping for. Wonderful to hear you’re loving the Shiatsu Massage! I do to. I’d love to coach you – my Mum is 74 and still in great shape. It’s amazing what you can do if you are consistent. You’ve inspired me today — to hold myself to high standard of health and fitness as I age. It’s my pleasure to be here for you and thanks for the kind words and encouragement. Bel xoxo

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irene March 6, 2014 at 5:37 am

hello i’m 22 years old and i just watch all of you videos and i will try to workout every day because i have a lot of cellulite and i’m really desperate. i’m 52KG i’m not a fat girl and i always workout at the gym but the cellulite always groun in my body. please let me know what i have to eat. I dont eat a lot of food but i’m not fun of vegetables.

Reply

Belinda March 6, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Hi Irene, you’re in a very healthy weight range. But that’s only part of the equation – it’s important to eat a wide variety of healthy, whole, fresh foods and cut out sugar, processed baked goods, prepared meals and reduce alcohol to ideally once a week just a couple of drinks. I’ve found with vegetables it’s the way they are cooked that make a difference. There are tons of websites with great ideas, start experimenting, just pick something new to cook and see how it goes. Do my bodyweight workouts – three times a week to start, go slow, don’t rush and focus on the right form. Give yourself 6 weeks of consistent clean eating and working out to start to see visible results. Let me know how it goes! Bel

Reply

Karen burgess December 18, 2013 at 10:45 am

I am 53 and have a lot of cellulite on my
thighs. I work out 4 days a week. I don’t know
what to do. I am so embrassed I never wear
shorts. And I live in fla. Please help me.

Reply

Belinda December 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Hi Karen, great to meet you and thanks for posting. What kind of workouts are you currently doing? Gym, classes, weights, bodyweight? What is your eating like? Let me know and I can advise from there. Don’t despair, with the right exercises and nutrition you can fix this!

Bel

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fiona lamb October 29, 2013 at 1:09 am

Reading your part of “tyranny of the mirror” was so true for me , I have always tried to take on board that type of thinking , some how it lets me down; in future I will read this when im feeling down so it peps me back up again and again

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Belinda October 29, 2013 at 1:15 am

Hello Fiona, I think just knowing there are other women struggling with the same challenges is comforting. I hope my words help refocus your thinking when your feeling down :) The more we practice letting go of those bad feelings and focusing on the positive, the easier it becomes.

Bel

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Bonnie October 28, 2013 at 11:51 pm

I found this so moving and true to my experience. Self-esteem has also eluded me and it never matters what people say; I still feel pain and hurt from a kaleidoscope of experience and self-talk. I can certainly relate to feeling emotionally haunted and wading through that. Great article, great advice. . xxxx

Reply

Belinda October 28, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Thank you Bonnie, and thanks for being brave enough to speak up. It takes courage to let go of those negative memories – but can be done.

Big hug, Bel xo

Reply

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