Set aside at least one hour to conduct the Mirror Activity. This self-viewing exercise is one you can do alone or with a partner. Couples sometimes discover hidden secrets about the other that they never realized were there, such as a delighting in your shoulder formation, a special mole, or a twinkle in the eyes. Use this process to learn how to accept and embrace yourself. It’s created for self-awareness (toward self-acceptance.) It’s not there to give your partner criticizing feedback, only encouragement.

This activity can be a revealing way to find out your true feelings (good, bad and neutral) about your flesh-and-bones self, unearthing what’s lurking under the skin. Are you ready? Let’s go…

Instructions:

* Set up a floor mirror or a full-length wall mirror in which you can see your whole body while standing.

* Get naked. (If you cannot tolerate that, keep your underpants and bra on, if you wear one.)

* Stand in front of the mirror in full view and say the words as directed below out loud to yourself.

* You begin at the top of your head and end at the bottom of your feet, and go slowly part by part down your body image in the mirror.

* Do this for at least 15 minutes and for as long as you wish; you can also repeat this over and over, to see how you have grown in your self-acceptance over time.

Look at yourself and state:

1) What you see (ex. “I see my hair…”)

2) What that makes you think (ex. “I remember when my hair was fuller and thicker, and I felt much younger;” “I remember my first boyfriend and how he used to love to touch my hair…”)

3) How that makes you feel (ex. “I love my wavy hair, the way it captures my beautiful face and caps my lovely shoulders;” “I hate the balding I see…. It makes me feel less manly and less sexy than before…”)

4) Make yourself find something positive about your image; yes, say it to yourself; even if you feel negatively about a body part, focus on a positive aspect, such as (even though your hair is thinning at the top), “I look handsome with salt and pepper hair.” Or “Men like me more rounded now with more of me to love…” Get it?

5) After you have gone through the whole image in the mirror, saying what you see, think and feel, then take out a piece of paper or open a computer file and write how this process made you feel and what “aha’s” or awareness you had. If something painful or uncomfortable surfaced, use this to review alone, with your partner (if you feel safe with that), a trusted friend, a counselor or a therapist.

If you do this as a couple, take turns. Do it one at a time, saying aloud as instructed, while your partner observes in silence. Repeat with the other person. After you both have done your process in the mirror, be sure to take the time to do the writing afterward. Then you can share your experience, by telling about what you thought and felt, how this affected you and asking for encouraging support from your partner to heal any painful issues. Once again, force yourself to focus on what you like and love.

Now, here is another twist: To enhance your intimacy, build self-esteem and to override your or your partner’s negativity about self-image, repeat the process ABOUT your partner’s body. Tell him or her from head to toe what you see and how much you like or love each part of the body you are beholding. You may be surprised how close this makes you feel and how empowering it is for your parnter to hear the positive encouraging feedback. Take it in; don’t refute what you are being told. And, after each compliment, say “Thank you” to your mate.

Be sure as a partner to focus only on HELPFUL feedback not to use this as a critique of the other person’s body or body image issues. Minimize the negative; maximize the positive. Strive to help each other to reach self-acceptance and mutual support.

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