April 28, 2014 at 8:24 AM ET
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” How many women actually ask this question? Instead, it’s more like: Mirror, mirror, look at my huge zit. Or what about my monstrous thighs? Do I look too much like a pear?
In the second installment of the special body image series "Love Your Selfie, Reclaiming Beauty," we explore our relationship with the mirror. According to recent "Mirrors" research from Dove, nine out of 10 women have felt badly when looking in the mirror, yet they look at their reflections an average of six times a day. In fact, the study found that women spend 50 minutes every day looking in the mirror (which adds up to a day a month). [Dove is sponsoring "Love Your Selfie" week on TODAY]
So why do women continue to look in the mirror if they are unhappy with their reflections?
“Women tend to use mirrors as what I call flaw detectors. They sort of scan from head-to-toe to look for what’s wrong,” says Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., director of the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders and author of The Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing What You Look Like with Who You Are.
Women are constantly looking for what they can change to make themselves look prettier, thinner or more perfect.
“We see women repeatedly bombarded with these media portrayals of the ideal body type with a sense of criticism if you don’t emulate or look that way,” says Helen L. Coons, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and president and clinical director of Women’s Mental Health Associates in Philadelphia. Women then internalize these standards for beauty and perfectionism, which can lead to a negative self image.
And the more we dis our own reflections, the harder it may be to break the cycle.
“Every time you look in the mirror and say something nasty about yourself, that becomes like a groove in a record that just gets deeper and deeper,” Bulik told TODAY.
The good news is we CAN change the way we view ourselves when we look in the mirror.
Every time you look in the mirror, say something positive about yourself, Bulik suggests. It doesn’t have to be about your appearance. It could be something about who you are or what you do.
“Facing it straight on and changing your relationship with the mirror is so much better than avoiding it,” she says.
Since your mind may be used to the negative chatter, it may take time to change your internal dialogue. But the longer and more often you compliment yourself in the mirror, the more you will learn to love your reflection.
Coons says instead of feeling disdain about your body, put that energy toward focusing on your health and well-being. Recognize that women are often more critical and unkind to themselves than they would be to others. And realize throughout your life — whether because of age, pregnancy, illness or other reasons — your body will fluctuate. Learn to accept those changes, and you will feel better about your body and reflection.