What you see in the mirror is not what you really look like
The mirror is an evil article. We use it to make sure our outfit matches, our eyeshadow is well blended and our hair doesn’t look like we rolled out of bed. But the idea of a mirror has grown: we see ourselves, or who we think we could be, on Instagram, TikTok, magazines and television. Our generation has made media a personal mirror, so that when we look into an ACTUAL mirror, our eyes manipulate our minds, warping our bodies into something they aren’t.
“I grew up as an avid dancer. I was always around people who had that typical dancer shape with toned muscles and a small waist. It was also challenging because as a dancer you are required to wear a restricting leotard which emphasizes almost every part of your body, so you cannot hide behind your baggy clothes. The most challenging part of being a dancer is the constant mirror that is in front of you, mocking you at all times. Every wall is covered by the mirror and you cannot escape looking at yourself.” (Ella Smith, 21)
Most people don’t know they suffer from body dysmorphia because they truly believe they look a different way.
I suffered from an eating disorder for about three years, and in that time I used to tell friends they could borrow any of my clothes - they would look at me like I was crazy. I was a size 0 or 2 and I was telling my beautiful size 6 or 8 best friend that my size 0 prom dress would look great on her. OF COURSE SHE WOULDN’T FIT IN MY CLOTHES. But when I looked at myself, I didn’t see the protruding ribs or thigh gap, I thought my 23 inch waist was the size 8 I previously was.
Body dysmorphia is when what you see is not reality and NOT who you are.
“For me, it meant constantly thinking about my weight and appearance. Whenever a family or friend gave me a compliment, I thought they were lying. I would walk through the hallways at school worrying about who was looking at me. My low self confidence also made my dating life pretty much non-existent. I couldn’t even comprehend the fact that a guy would ever be interested in me. I followed dozens of fitness accounts and was constantly comparing my body to these people. I have come to realize that all the things I see wrong with myself when I look in the mirror (jiggly arms, thick thighs, broad shoulders, etc.) others don’t even notice” (Jamie Woods, 20)
Media has augmented insecurities, especially in Gen Z. Hell, it’s even made me aware of things I am NOW insecure of because someone else pointed it out on themselves. The constant comparison is draining and really not worth it.
It’s no secret most, if not all, girls and women struggle with insecurities. But boys and men also have a stigma surrounding them, one that discounts insecurities they may have about themselves. It’s sad, male insecurity is not normalized. But trust me, it’s there. After being with athletes, gym rats, singers, etc. EVERYONE has their own insecurities and even the person who seems like they have the perfect body dwells on their imperfections.
“I think body dysmorphia is about trying to achieve a perfect body, which is impossible. But the constant strive towards that perfect body always getting closer is how my experience is so far. Always wanting to be bigger and stronger even after hitting my last goal. I think my view of myself is pretty critical. My view of myself is based mostly on my appearance, strength, and intelligence. All of which I judge myself pretty harshly on.” (Male, 19)
Body dysmorphia is not gender specific and can take a million different forms. Some of the fittest men I have met, and seemingly most confident, have been the most insecure and unsatisfied with what they see in the mirror.
I think the most important thing to remember is that more often than not, what you see in the mirror is not what others see. What you see of others on Instagram is a carefully chosen snapshot of their life, edited to make them seem near perfect and hide their own insecurities. Comparing yourself to others will get you nowhere; they are probably comparing themselves to you as well. There was a time at the gym where a girl came up to me (a girl I’ve known and always wanted to look like: petite, blonde, pretty) and asked what I did to workout because she wanted a bigger butt. I was shocked she was asking me to help change what she looked like, because I didn’t recognize a flaw on her.
It was then that I realized that we will never be fully satisfied with ourselves until we learn to accept ourselves as we are now.
Body dysmorphia is a deadly mental illness, but a beatable one. Anyone can suffer from it, and our insecurities only heighten it.
Everyone is insecure in some way.
Everyone has bad days.
No one is confident 100% of the time, even if they seem like it. Most people are too worried about themselves to worry about judging you, and all the insecurities you dwell on, no one else even notices. Just know that with body dysmorphia, what you see in the mirror is not how others see you. And if you could see yourself through your friends and families, and even strangers eyes, you would realize how beautiful you truly are.