October 11th, 2012

“I see thighs the size of a beach ball,” she said. “I see eyes that are too small and hair that is stringy. I see a body that needs to exercise and a face that could use a face-lift.”

“Ouch,” I said. “It’s painful just to listen to you. All you’ve given me is a list of harsh judgments.” She nodded her head. “But that is what I see when I look in the mirror. I am usually so disgusted by my body that I avoid looking at myself.”

A murmur of agreement from the others washed through the room. I said, “You are telling me what you see through veils and veils of unworthiness. Everything you see is colored by your judgment of what you think you should be seeing, what an ideal body
would look like.”

“Try again,” I said. “But this time look with the eyes in the center of your chest. Tell me about this body and its particular beauty.”

“OK,” Alissa said, “I’ll try.” She took a deep breath. “I like my eyes,” she said. “They have gold flecks in them, and a pretty shape. They have watched my children grow up and they’ve seen the turquoise of the Caribbean. They’ve been good to me.”

“Good start,” I said. “Now tell me more about your eyes. Look at yourself the way you would look at a work of art, and tell me what you see.”

“I can see — oh, wow! — it’s like I can see behind my eyes to something that’s hard to put into words, something big. I can see wisdom there, in my eyes. I can actually see the child I once was. I can see joy. I can see beauty and possibilities.”

Alissa turned to me. “Geneen,” she said, “are you hypnotizing me?” Laughter swept through the room. I said, “It’s amazing, isn’t it, that the minute we start seeing beauty in our own faces, beauty in our very aliveness, we think we are being hypnotized. We are so used to judging ourselves that when we stop feeling unworthy, we think someone must be playing a trick on us.”

After Alissa took her turn, the others stepped up to the mirror — not thrilled, but willing to see what they would notice in themselves if they weren’t looking judgmentally. And as one after the other walked up to the mirror, recited what they usually say to themselves (ouch, ouch, ouch), and then were able to look with their hearts, they were amazed at the beauty they saw. Imagine how your days would change if you knew that everywhere you went there would be beauty. So a difficult day could be brightened by something as mundane as a stranger’s smile.

Imagine if, when you looked in the mirror, you saw what was beautiful instead of what you didn’t like. Suddenly, you’d no longer be weighed down by the vision of yourself as a collection of imperfections, a burden that keeps you from being your true self. You wouldn’t have to turn to food for comfort because you’d have all the comfort you need. It would be right there, looking back at you. Wouldn’t you say that’s beauty saving the day?

I would.

Geneen has appeared on many national television shows including: The Oprah Show, 20/20, The NBC Nightly News, The View, The Today Show, CBS Early Show, and Good Morning America. Articles about Geneen and her work have appeared in numerous publications including: O: The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Time, Elle, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has written monthly columns in Good Housekeeping Magazine and Prevention Magazine. Geneen is the author of ninet books, including The New York Times bestsellers When Food is Love, Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, and her newest book, Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money.

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