Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Mirror Mirror on The Wall

What Do You See When You Look in The Mirror?

Will the mirror respond as it did in Snow White, saying you’re the fairest of all? Will it be silent or worse yet — will it say everyone else is fairer?

Have you ever considered that when you look in the mirror, you’re not seeing what you actually look like?

A psychologist told me years ago that what we see in the mirror is directly tied to the body image we hold of ourselves. A person can be physically stunning, but if they have a negative body image, what they see in the mirror has little to do with reality. As Thomas F. Cash, PhD put it, “It’s a state of mind.”

He says there’s an inner voice we each have that pretty much controls how we see ourselves and how we see the world around us in relation to ourselves.

Cash wrote a book in the mid-1990s called What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror? It’s an eight-step program that “helps readers to devalue stereotypes, overcome self-consciousness, end self-defeating behavior, and establish healthy thinking patterns.”

He wanted to help people understand how our looks and inner body image intertwine and profoundly affect our lives.

I wish the book had been written 40 or 50 years before. When I was growing up, I viewed myself as a very awkward, shy, gangly girl; skinny as a rail with curly, kinky hair and nearsighted — pretty much not worth much.

What I was seeing at the time had a tremendously negative impact on me.

When I reached my 20s, I realized the career I wanted required me to be outgoing and strong. Every day for years, I put on my executive façade that hid what my inner voice was telling me and went to work.

People assumed I was how I appeared on the outside — an executive who “had it all.” I just prayed my façade wouldn’t let me down.

It wasn’t until I read Dr. Cash’s book that I began to understand most of what I felt about myself stemmed from how that little voice inside of me talked to me about me from the time I was a young girl.

It really didn’t matter what other people said about me — I only believed my inner mirror voice.

In his book, Cash explains his program helps people create a new body image in their head, or what he calls your “new inner voice.” He describes techniques ranging from relaxation to visualization that a person can utilize to find their new inner voice.

Most of what he suggests has its roots in cognitive therapy techniques. He also suggests you keep a body-image diary to help you conquer self-defeating behavior, which in essence changes your thinking. It is designed to alleviate — if not fully stop — self conscious, anxious behavior.

Along the way, and with a lot of work, I discovered another mirror. It’s not the one I look in when I’m getting dressed; it’s the one I discovered inside of me — my inner mirror, the one I found after I learned to stop listening to the destructive voice in my head.

When do you find this mirror? I find it when I close my eyes and blank out everything around me.

I love this mirror (at least most of the time). It’s all mine. When I’m in that space, my everyday stress level seems to evaporate, my breathing slows down.

I’ve been told it’s my parasympathetic nervous system, one of the two divisions of the automatic nervous system. The parasympathetic one is responsible for regulating the body’s unconscious actions, such as fight or flight.

As my growth in this area continued, I found Deepak Chopra, an Indian-American author, public speaker, physician and founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. He is the author of more than 80 books, and to his credit, 22 of his books have become New York Times bestsellers.

The Chopra Center website has everything from programs to services, all in pursuit of the Center’s mission of serving “as the global source for balance, healing, transformation, and the expansion of awareness.”

I continue my journey, with help from websites like The Chopra Center, to find out more about my inner self and what I see in the mirror of my soul. Some of the other websites I’ve found and journey through as I have time are:

Frankly, the older I get, the more I’m at peace — not only with what I see in the mirror of my soul, but with what I see reflecting back at me from the mirror hanging on the wall.

I’ve become much more tolerant not only toward myself, but others as well. I’ve even begun to like my quirks: the way my eyes shut when I’m laughing, the wrinkles that have come with experiencing life, my now gray and curly hair.

I’m now on a quest to find some yoga classes that will help me on my continued quest for serenity, and perhaps a college class or two that will delve into the religions of the world that emphasize inner peace. I’ve always been fascinated by Buddhism and its eternal quest for Nirvana.

I hope you’ll join me — it’s a journey worth taking!