Guest blogger Valerie Frankel: Here's how I learned to stop hating my reflection and loving myself.
Me and the mirror. Call it a hate-hate relationship. I'd look at myself to find the smallest physical flaws, and then savagely criticize myself about them. To improve my body image and mental health, I had to learn to shut up my Inner Bitch -- for good.
To do this, I decided to count the number of negative thoughts I had each day and consciously reduce them. This would include critical mirror moments, when I compared myself unfavorably to other women, or had a random self-hate flash like, "jeans too tight ... fat stomach ... gross."
In one day, I counted 263 distinct instances. Calculators out: That breaks down to one negative thought every three-and-a-half minutes. It was worse than I could have imagined!
I was my own worst enemy. Negative thoughts were the glue that held my subconscious together. Shocked and horrified, I vowed to make a positive turn -- and hoped my outlook would improve as my thoughts did.
I steared clear of mirrors. When I walked down the street, I'd stare straight ahead to avoid my reflection in car and storefront windows. If I thought that my clothes were snug, instead of berating myself, I changed outfits. Slowly but significantly, I cut down my negativity -- and felt a bit better.
And then, much better. About a month into this project, I was walking my daughter Lucy home from school. We passed a huge store window, as always.
For weeks, I'd purposefully looked straight ahead, to avoid the reflection. But on that day, I turned my head to gaze at Lucy instead. When she noticed I was looking at her -- not at the window, not straight ahead -- she smiled up at me, big and beautiful. I was suddenly overcome with gratitude for her being my daughter, for her innate happiness and joy.
How many of those moments had I missed while frowning at my reflection in storefront windows? Too many.
Since then, I've aspired to look for joy, and not flaws, in myself and the world around me. In the process, I've gained a better outlook -- and became a better person, too.
To order Valerie's memoir, Thin is the New Happy, click here.