Join Our Community

Your First Mirror

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Your First Mirror

5 self-image habits to break.
Vivian  Diller Ph.D.
Vivian Diller Ph.D. More by this author
Jul 10, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Our very first glimpse of ourselves is likely found in the mirror of our mother’s eyes during infancy. In her glances and later through her words and behaviors we begin to develop a psychological and physical image of ourselves.

At best, a strong and appealing self-image starts when love is reflected back at us in the gleam of our mother’s eyes. If those eyes are filled with unconditional approval and affection, mother and child both bask in the immense pleasure, experiencing themselves as blissfully beautiful. It is in this mutual glow that the earliest seeds of positive self-esteem are planted.

We ask women to return to their experience growing up, most particularly in relation to Mom, to understand the psychological underpinnings of the role appearance played in the development of their sense of self. We impress upon them that as unrelated as these old memories may seem, and as hard as it is to go backward, it is a key step to help them move forward.

If we approach our appearance from a developmental perspective, it is easier to understand and alter how we see our selves. Sometimes we find the symbol of a reservoir useful in understanding the concept of self-image. We can visualize the fluid way physical and psychological factors blend to create our experience of beauty.

A typical reservoir is filled with provisions reserved for later use. A psychological reservoir is filled by life events and the interactions that nourish our emotional lives. The quality of those experiences determines how we perceive ourselves (self-image) and how we feel about ourselves (self-esteem).

What Fills Your Reservoir?

The self-doubter: Do you doubt yourself constantly? (“Please don’t ask me to give that speech . . . I’ll look awful, I’ll make a mess of it.”) It’s possible that your reservoir has previously been filled by criticism. You may have heard others doubt you and then, as often happens, you begin to believe those voices. Try talking back to the critic, and fill your reservoir with the confidence you are gaining.

The neglected: Do you fail to care for yourself? Avoid trying to improve your appearance? (“What’s the difference at this point?”) Your reservoir feels empty. You may have been neglected, emotionally and physically, and have internalized the neglect that previously surrounded you. You may treat yourself now the way you were once treated. Just because you lived with others who didn’t put much stock in the importance in you or your “beauty,” doesn’t mean you need to repeat the neglect. Fill yourself up with attention and care.

The competitor: Do you compare yourself to others? Compete with much younger women? (“I’ll show them who looks better in jeans!”) You may have been compared to others growing up, to your siblings or friends, but isn’t it time to fill that reservoir with a little well-earned maturity? In sports they call it going for your “personal best.” Do the same with your own unique self.

The perfectionist: Do you constantly fall short of a standard you set for yourself, or if you reach your goals, always feel you can do more? (“The chemical peel worked, why not go for something bigger?”) Your reservoir was likely filled by expectations that you be perfect, or at least better than you are. The media feeds that perception as well. Fill your reservoir with reasonable expectations.

The guilty: Do you blame yourself for almost everything, including aging? (“Honey, I’ve tried everything, but nothing I do makes me look like I used to.”) Your reservoir may have been filled with self-admonishments and apologies. You may feel undeserving, which makes it hard to feel good about looking good. Try filling your reservoir with more forgiveness and acceptance.

Recognizing self-image as an evolving and interactive developmental process is key to understanding and dealing with our looks as they change. It provides a perspective on beauty that is not static and gives support to the ability we all have to impact perception of ourselves as we age.

As adults, our psychological reservoirs are ours to fill. Unlike the lack of choices we have growing up—such as our inability to select our own family and environment—we can gain control over many of those choices as we mature into adulthood. Instead of feeling a loss of control as we get older, we in fact have increased opportunities to fill our reservoir with responses that can now come from our own selves and from people we choose to have in our lives.

By taking control over the voices that once controlled us, we can shift our current sense of attractiveness and potentially reconfigure the definition of beauty as we age.

About Author
Vivian  Diller Ph.D.
Vivian Diller, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. Prior to becoming a therapist, Diller was a professional dancer with the Cincinnati Ballet Company and a model represented by Wilhelmina Models. As a model, she ap Continue reading