Love Your Look Self-Help Advice

Written by Paul Wolf

Is your relationship with your reflection on the rocks? Learn to stop obsessing and start loving your look.

"You look marvelous!"

With just three words, Bev Bender has turned her enemy, the mirror, into her friend. Over her mirror she has placed a graphic of a man holding a sign with that supportive phrase.

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"I would always look in the mirror and see this overweight middle-aged woman and go, `Yuk,' " says the San Francisco humorist and public-speaking instructor. "Now I just laugh."

Many of us have a relationship with our mirrors like the one Bender used to have. When we stand before the mirror, more than our vanity is at stake. We're looking for more than spinach between our teeth or uncombed hair. We search the reflection to find a reason for other people to love and respect us, says cognitive-behavioral therapist Kathleen Burton.

It's not surprising, then, that most of us are more than a little neurotic about mirrors.

Anyone who has unknowingly caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror and then shuddered at the realization that the reflection was his own knows that mirrors can be downright cruel. There are mirrors that make you look taller, shorter, fatter and, God love them, thinner. But even when the mirror seems accurate, our own insecurities step in and do the distorting for us.

Want to feel better about the man or woman in the mirror? It's time you stopped looking for trouble and got real about your reflection.

Dress for success.
If you wouldn't go to a party without showering and putting on a favorite outfit, why are you less particular about how you present yourself to the mirror. Don't be a tougher audience than your real audience. Worry about the finished product, not the preliminary stages.

Don't believe everything you see.
Mirrors are the ultimate spin-doctors, and lighting is the perfect co-conspirator.

A tilted ground-based mirror gives you a double chin, but a high-flung mirror removes it. A close mirror makes you look older than one farther away. But we're not thinking about any of this when we look in the mirror.

We're too busy scrutinizing our wrinkles or squeezing our love handles to see what the mirror doesn't reflect: our personality, the very thing that makes us charming, beautiful, alluring, distinguished, fun.

Make Amends With Your Mirror
Look in the mirror, not the microscope.
You can rate each body part on a scale from one to 10, but no one else will. As you study yourself in the mirror, you forget the sum is greater than the parts. The mirror magnifies flaws, says Burton. So don't waste time obsessing about perceived flaws that no one else will notice but you.

Have a sense of humor about it.
Take Bender's cue, and lighten up when looking in the mirror. Remember your childhood relationship with the mirror? You'd crack yourself up making faces and messing around with your hair. Tap into that sense of humor. You may find there's a lot that's lovable in those funny faces.

Give yourself a little privacy.
You don't even let your spouse see you sitting on the throne. Why then do you suffer the indignity of having a mirror on the inside of your bathroom door?

Mirrors should be strategically placed. You should be the one to decide when it is all right to see yourself. The mirrors should not decide for you.

Get more from your mirror.
Take Bender's advice and have a face-to-face with your image. Bender says "I love you" in the mirror as often as she can.

She admits this ritual is embarrassing the first couple of times. But it's like the tree falling in the woods; it's not really blushing if you are the only one to see it.

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Photographer: Phil Date

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