Struggling with body image? Keep reading to learn more about mirror exposure therapy can and how it can help you on your body image healing journey.
Kate, a listener from our community, wrote in to share her body image struggle and get a question answered on The Recovery Warrior Shows.
“I’m so blessed to be physically healthy, however after 20 years in recovery all I can see when I look in the mirror are my ‘enormous legs’. I know this is the shape I will always have. Will there ever be a day that I won’t focus on them? And if so, what additional method of therapy should I try if I’ve already addressed lessening body dysmorphia with traditional prescribed therapy. How can I own my legs and learn to love them, or just appreciate them and feel neutral about them?“
In our mission to help you learn from the best, we connected with Zoë Bisbing to answer this question. She’s a therapist and educator who has dedicated her career to helping individuals and families heal from eating disorders and body image issues.
Zoë suggested the practice of mirror exposure therapy to help improve body image. It’s a practice you can do by yourself, in your own home. Keep reading to discover how it works, and how it can help you if you’re struggling.
What is Mirror Exposure Therapy?
Mirror exposure therapy for body image healing is a therapeutic approach that utilizes the use of a mirror to help you develop a more positive perception of your body. It involves observing the body neutrally, without judgment to promote self-acceptance and challenge negative thoughts. Gradually exposing yourself to this practice, reduces body distress over time.
According to the National Institute of Health, mirror exposure therapy is a clinical trial validated treatment that improves body image and body satisfaction. It’s been shown to benefit individuals with high body dissatisfaction and patients with eating disorders in clinical trials .
This practice is about facing your body’s perceived flaws head-on and learning to appreciate the remarkable machine that it is. It encourages you to use neutral language when describing their body’s shape, color, function, and form, ultimately leading to a more balanced perspective on your self-image.
Start focusing on the experience of being in your body rather than looking at it with judgement.
The journey towards improved body image can be a challenging one, especially when living with an eating disorder. Mirror exposure therapy offers a valuable tool to help break free from disrupted body image perceptions and empower you to cultivate a healthier mindset towards your physical appearance.
By using neutral language, you can better grasp the concept that your body is neither good nor bad. It simply is.
Putting Mirror Exposure Therapy in Action
Zoë Bisbing emphasizes the need for individuals to approach this therapy in a gentle and compassionate manner. To help understand how this looks in practice, she shared some steps and guidance to try it for yourself.
Start by standing in front of a mirror, and look at a particular part of your body that is causing you distress. Then, describe it using neutral language. No more, no less. Simply describe what you see.
For example, let’s imagine someone is struggling with the appearance of their stomach. They may typically see it in the mirror and think “Ugh, look at my disgusting stomach. It’s huge, I’m huge, and I’m unlovable.“
Instead of using language filled with judgment and qualifiers, they could simply describe what they see. “I see my stomach. The shape is round. It moves as I inhale and exhale.” Observe, and stay neutral.
Practice observing different parts of your body, or your body as a whole. Use neutral, descriptive language to describe the shape, color, function and form of what you see.
This gives you a little bit of relief from the judgment because you can’t both describe neutrally AND judge at the same time. Your brain simply can’t do both at once. This practices gives you another way to experience your body.
Tips to Strengthen the Practice of Mirror Exposure Therapy
Zoë shared a couple more tips to help you take this practice further:
- Set a safe space for mirror exposure therapy
- Start with shorter, manageable exposure sessions
1. Set a Safe Space For Mirror Exposure Therapy
Practicing mirror exposure therapy can lead to a better understanding of your body as you reach the ultimate goal of improved body image. One significant aspect of this therapy is setting up a safe space to practice mirror exposure.
It’s important to understand the significance of establishing a safe space for mirror exposure therapy. Feeling secure and supported during this process is pivotal, as it can greatly impact your progress and overall recovery.
Find a place where you feel comfortable using a mirror. And remember that this safe place extends beyond physical location. It could also be an online support group or a circle of loved ones who are understanding and non-judgmental.
Find others that are going through it too, because it’s hard at times. But when you’re not alone, it’s not as terrible.
Ultimately, mirror exposure therapy along with a strong support system, can lead to significant strides in improving body image. This helps lessen the grip of an eating disorder in your life.
2. Start with Shorter, Manageable Exposure Sessions
To effectively implement this technique, it’s essential to begin with shorter, manageable exposure sessions. This way you can set achievable goals that inspire progress without feeling overwhelming or intimidating.
According to Zoë, one crucial aspect of this process is using neutral language to describe one’s body. This dispassionate approach allows you to observe your body without judgment, setting the stage for improved body image. The importance of implementing manageable exposure sessions when practicing mirror exposure therapy cannot be overstated.
By breaking down the process into smaller, achievable steps, you can gradually cultivate a sense of control and confidence in your ability to confront and change negative self-perceptions. This incremental progress contributes to a more positive body image, improved mental health, and ultimately, a more successful recovery journey.
On To a Better Body Image Future
Overcoming negative body image can be a significant challenge on the road to recovery. By practicing mirror exposure therapy to view your body in a neutral light, you can find long-lasting healing and self-acceptance from food and body struggles.
Practicing the steps shared by Zoë Bisbing on mirror exposure therapy can help you befriend the reflection in the mirror and embrace your body with compassion and acceptance.
Through consistent exposure sessions, neutral language, and a supportive network, you can address the root issue of body dysmorphia and create positive change. So, take a deep breath, give yourself grace, and embark on this journey to body neutrality and acceptance – you are worth the effort.
Click here to learn more about Equip.
Connect with Zoë Bisbing & Equip
- Equip Website
- Zoë Bisbing Official Website
- Zoë Bisbing’s Body Positive Home Workshops
- Zoë Bisbing on Instagram
- Equip on Instagram