Can You Look at Yourself in the Mirror and Love What You See?

Can You Look at Yourself in the Mirror and Love What You See?

My six year old daughter loves to look at herself. She stands up as close as possible to the mirror, and spends ages revelling in her physical form.

She’ll peer into the depths of her cheeky green eyes; she’ll open and close her mouth, counting her latest wobbly teeth, and she’ll flick her hair, this way and that, to view herself from all possible angles.

One morning, while she was supposed to be brushing her teeth and getting ready for school – but was, instead, singing to herself in the mirror – I asked her if she loved herself. “Oh, very much, Mummy,” she said, turning back to continue her song, “I love the way I look!”

Oh, if only I could love my physical self like this again!

When does the self-criticism and nit-picking of our bodies begin? Why is this such a dreadful affliction for us men and women?

I can trace the beginnings of the loathings of my physical body. For me, it started in puberty…

As a child, I was petite and pretty. I was often chosen as the lead in school plays, and was given lots of attention. But when puberty started, I seemed to grow in all the wrong places: I chubbed up around my face and belly, my nose grew long, I got cellulite on my legs and become flabby and awkward.

In all honesty, I never really had a weight problem but I certainly did look puffy and, in my teenage-mind’s-eye, unattractive and fat – (Back then my undiagnosed celiacs caused bloating as well as a chronic hormonal condition which largely attributed to this. If you’re interested, here I write about how I healed this and returned to my perfect weight) – and this is when I stopped being able to look at myself and love what I saw.

Like most women, my teens and early twenties were riddled with self-hate about my physical appearance, and sometimes it was so acute that I wouldn’t leave the house for days. I hated how I looked and felt cursed – trapped inside a sick, weird and puffy body.

But, part of the reason I hated myself was because I had unrealistic expectations about the human female form. Apart from my mum and sisters, I had never really seen other women’s naked bodies, and because of this, I thought most other women looked perfect, like women in fashion magazines.

When I moved to Germany in my early twenties I saw, for the first time in my life, real women’s bodies from real women of all ages.

Germans aren’t prudish like us native-english speakers. In the change rooms of gyms and in the sauna houses, women change in front of each other and walk around naked. And it was here that I witnessed the beauty of the imperfection of women’s bodies and healed my own self-loathing.

I saw the beauty of sagging breasts, dimpled legs, c-section scars and pudgy tummies. I saw the beauty of the curves of voluptuous women and of the angles of thin ones.

I loved the fact the human female form is not symmetrical – that most women’s breasts, legs and bottom cheeks are different on both sides. But what I learnt to love most is that when we’re stripped bare and vulnerable in our nakedness there is minimal ego amongst women. 

This was healing. This experience changed me. And although I’m not yet able to look at myself and love everything I see, I’m working towards it.

with love,

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