There is a large mirror in the corner of the studio where I teach yoga. It’s just an ordinary mirror, but for a while, when I first started teaching yoga, it seemed to hold extraordinary power. I don’t tend to look in mirrors more than when I’m getting ready in the morning. But this mirror seemed to draw my eyes to it when I walked in to ready the studio for my class. The first time I walked by it, and I glanced at myself, the fleeting thought of “my you look fat” floated passed my consciousness. I didn’t give much thought to that pessimism, as I try very hard not to let negative self speak into my brain. However, the next time I went to teach, I found myself trying to avoid looking in the mirror, but I inevitably glanced over, only to have the voice in my head speak a little more loudly, a little more forcefully say, “wow, you’re looking quite chubby.” This scene repeated itself whenever I came into the studio to teach. Even though I didn’t ask, this crafty, Snow White-esque mirror seemed to be telling me that I DEFINITELY was not the fairest of them all.
This “dialogue” from the mirror bothered me tremendously, not only because it seemed to broadcast negativity, but also because with everything going on the world, how could I be worried about whether I looked chubby or not? It caused stress on many levels. I thought I was above being influenced by what I saw in the mirror. I thought that with all my academic, as well as my yoga training, that somehow I was immune to the culturally imposed limitations placed on women’s bodies. I didn’t want to think about how I looked. I wanted to focus on bigger world problems. But, alas, my mind kept floating back to the perceived reflection. The mirror in the corner became an unbidden fixation. I considered turning it around when I walked in the studio so I wouldn’t have to look at it. I considered covering it with a scarf. I considered removing it altogether! And then I decided to get real and take charge of this ridiculous phobia I had developed…of a mirror!
Women have their bodies scrutinized every day. We are either too fat, too skinny, too muscular, too flabby, too tall, too short, too white, too dark, too this, too that…Magazines, television, print media in general publish pictures of women that have an increasingly narrow “ideal” body type. Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., researcher, author and international speak writes: “Advertising is an over 100 billion dollar a year industry and affects all of us throughout our lives. We are each exposed to over 2000 ads a day, constituting perhaps the most powerful educational force in society….Advertising creates a mythical, mostly white world in which people are rarely ugly, overweight, poor, struggling or disabled, either physically or mentally.” Kilbourne goes on to write that most women in advertisements have perfect hair, little body fat and appear to have no pores. She states that Cindy Crawford once said, “Cindy Crawford doesn’t look like Cindy Crawford.” The photo shopping, air brushing and camera manipulation create an image of someone who doesn’t exist…all in an effort to make women feel they are inadequate, ugly, undesirable so they will buy the product in the advertisement. It’s real and it’s hard to escape, even for the most diligent. The question becomes, what can be done to fight back against this insidious assault?
For starters, I would get rid of cable television. Television shows are a conduit for advertisers to create discontent, so you’ll buy their products. Quit buying women’s magazines. Spend your money on good books, yoga classes, and healthy food or put it in savings. Talk to your women friends about your feelings of inadequacy. Chances are, they feel it too, but sometimes it feels embarrassing to admit these feelings. If more of us disclosed these thoughts, perhaps it would be easier to quiet those lies that rattle around in our heads. Once you realize you’re not alone, knowing other women are battling the same mindsets can make the fight against such feelings easier. There is always strength in numbers. Finally, begin telling yourself daily that you are beautiful, brilliant and awesomely amazing. Take charge of the mirror. Look yourself squarely in the eye and say loving words to yourself. You are not a number on the scale, you are not your dress size, you are not your hair or your skin or your nails. You are something much deeper. You are an exquisite, amazing creature who has so much more to do than worry about a reflection.
The mirror in the corner is still there and it still tries to tell me how I am not perfect. I’m learning to brush off its feeble attempts to reduce my being to a physical representation. When it throws out its negativity, I simply smile and remember to remember my true self, which is light, radiance and love. It’s amazing how quiet it becomes when I gently replace its negativity with uplifting, healing and inspiring refrains. It can’t keep up its assault in the face of positivity. I refuse to relinquish any more of my power to a bit of metal and wood. It ceases to have influence when I reduce it to its fundamental substance…because really, it’s nothing more than a mirror in the corner.
Ignore the mirror in the corner. Keep Shining. Peace Out!