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The Mirror: A Place to Be Compassionate

I know many compassionate people. They are kind. They are forgiving. They are charitable towards others. And yet, they are mean, vindictive and show no mercy when they assess themselves in the mirror.

I doubt that it will come as a surprise to you that most (but not all) of these people are women. Oops, I should say girls and women. For the syndrome begins with pre-teens and travels the length of time to great-grandmas.  

“I’m so fat!

My butt is too big; my boobs are too small; my stomach is huge; my thighs are too wide, my hair is too curly (or straight or thin or thick)!”

Needless to say, the face does not escape a heartless assessment.

My eyes are droopy; my nose is crooked; my lips are too big. And the wrinkles on my face; they’re awful!”

“Is there any part of your body that escapes negative assessment?”

When I asked Elaine that question, she said, “I do think I have pretty hands. Well, at least I did until they got so wrinkly.” Then Elaine showed me a photograph of herself when she was 30. “Look at me,” she said. “I was really pretty then.”

“Did you think you were pretty at the time,” I asked her. “Sadly, no. I wanted to lose 10 pounds. And I wanted to look like my friend Cary. She had long reddish blond hair and a great smile. I felt I was rather plain looking. But when I look at me now, I see I was wrong.”

“Do you think you might be wrong now,” I asked. “No way,” she responded. “Now I really am fat and unattractive. And if people say otherwise, they’re just trying to be nice.”

Yes, women who are kind and nurturing to others are often extremely mean to themselves as they glare at their “bad” parts. And it doesn’t stop there. For if you hate how you look, it’s hard for you to love yourself. Focus on your faults and flaws, and don’t be surprised if you become anxious and depressed.

So, if this article is speaking to you, it’s time to make a change. Here’s how to begin:

  1. Be grateful for your body. Yup, your less-than-perfect 10 body. The one that’s too fat and too flawed. It’s working for you. You’re alive!
  2. Focus on how your body feels, what it can do, not how it looks. Hopefully, you’re walking; you’re talking; you’re breathing; you’re bending. That’s what your body is supposed to do. It’s not supposed to be parading around the runway in 4-inch heels.
  3. Practice self-acceptance. When you look in the mirror, change your focus. Look at what you like, not what you don’t like. I know, it won’t be easy, but it is possible. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Imagine saying to yourself, “This outfit looks good on me.” Or, “my hair looks nice today.”
  4. Look around you to notice other bodies. What you will see is all sizes and shapes. What you won’t see are flawless bodies that have been photoshopped and published in People magazine or posted online on Instagram. You have a real body. A body with beauty; a body with blemishes. A body that is getting older. Yes, older. Unbelievable; it takes about 10 years to get used to how old you are. And then, it never fails, you’re still older. That’s the way life is. Best to accept it.
  5. You are much more than your body. Get beyond the physical.  Spend time appreciating the amazing ‘you’ that encompasses your mind, your heart, your soul, your experiences, your joys.

Next time you look in the mirror, remember that you are a compassionate, kind, forgiving person. Hence, you will notice all the good things about your body. When you do, not only will you feel better about your physical self, your mood will be enhanced. Keep doing that and who knows, the mirror just might become your best buddy.

p.s. Perhaps my idea about body image pertaining mainly to women is wrong. When I mentioned this article to my personal trainer, who has a body just about anybody would envy, he nodded in agreement. He also has trouble being compassionate to himself when he looks in the mirror.


The Mirror: A Place to Be Compassionate

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

Dr. Linda Sapadin, psychologist, success coach and author is proud to announce the publication of her new book, Overcoming Your Procrastination: College Student Edition – Advice for 6 Personality Styles available on Amazon. Now more than ever with remote learning, this book is a must-have. If you’re a perfectionist, dreamer, worrier, crisis-maker, defier or please, grab your copy. No longer a student? Get my book How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age – 6 Change Programs for 6 Personality Styles. Visit to subscribe to my free e-newsletter. Contact her at

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APA Reference
Sapadin, L. (2018). The Mirror: A Place to Be Compassionate. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 13 Aug 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.