Sarah Elizabeth Richards posts at Broadsheet about the use of mirrors therapeutically to help women change negative perceptions about their body images.

Researchers followed 45 women ages 17 to 31, whose obsession with the weight and shape of their bodies affected their feelings of self-worth. Half were asked to stand in front of a three-way mirror and objectively describe the areas they liked and disliked. (They were also told to stay away from the scale or mirror at home.)

After three sessions, the women reported better self-esteem and were less depressed than a comparison group, who participated in traditional talk therapy with a counselor.
Sometimes people just need to be given permission to change the way their perceptions. It’s ingrained from such an early age to look at our flaws disapprovingly, rather than just accept them, and I imagine that’s a big part of why this therapy works. It’s not just learning how to view yourself differently; it’s being given permission to view yourself differently. If you don’t want to obsess about your gut flab, it’s okay; you don’t have to.

One of my mom’s favorite stories to tell about me is how I gave her permission to say no. A few years ago, she was moaning and groaning about some wedding shower (or baby shower, or something) that she didn’t really feel like attending. “I don’t want to go, but I have to,” she sighed.

“No you don’t,” I said.

She sort of blinked at me, surprised, and said, “Yes, I do. I was invited. They’ll be hurt if I don’t go. I have to go.”

“No you don’t,” I said again. “If you don’t want to go, just tell them you can’t come. Send the gift and card and stay home.”

She looked stunned, as if I was saying the most revolutionary thing in the world. Well, I was—in her world. She always felt so obligated to do everything that anyone asked. That’s the way she’d been raised. It had never really occurred to her that she could just say no, that if she simply preferred to stay home and watch a movie or read a book or sit and stare at the wall it was okay.

After a long pause for consideration, she nodded her head. “I’m going to tell them no!” she announced.

“Good for you,” I told her.

She felt very pleased with herself, but made a self-effacing comment about how her daughter had to teach her how to say no. But it’s not like she didn’t know how; she just needed permission to do it. There are things within all of us that go so deeply, we can’t allow ourselves to break with (or from) them. Sometimes we just need a jolt to do it, someone to say, “That’s allowed.”

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