October 10, 2009

Mirror Experiment- Day 3

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:07 pm by kellyfdennis

glass-wall-of-office-building-100188547Yesterday was day 3, the completion of the “no mirror” experiment. On one hand it was easier…I don’t see clients on Fridays.  Therefore, I didn’t stress about the clothing selection, jeans and t-shirt are always ok for me.  I just let my hair do its own thing.  I didn’t do eyeliner, only mascara, so I didn’t have to use the compact. Once I was ready, I headed off to the grocery store.

At the store I was pretty involved in price checking and whatnot, so I really didn’t think too much about the experiment or my appearance.  As I was standing in the check out line, though, I found myself looking at the other people waiting in line and wondering if it would be difficult for them to be doing the mirror experiment.

I took my groceries out to the car and I was a little taken aback that I had an urge to look in the window to check my hair…what was that all about, I wasn’t expecting to be concerned about my appearance today.  I fought the urge and headed home.

I put away the groceries and had lunch, all the while thinking about why I was concerned about my appearance.  My theory had been that it was attached to my professional persona, which is true, but clearly no one in the grocery store knew that I was a therapist. Hmm…

A little later on in the day, I was cleaning the bathroom and the towel I had hung over the mirror fell off (I guess the thumbtacks just got tired).  So there I was, standing in front of myself.

It felt good to see my reflection once again.

This was a very interesting experiment.  Even though I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who struggles with negative body image, I learned that I certainly worry about how my appearance is perceived by others.  As I reflect (no pun intended;)), I realize during the past three days, there has been an underlying uneasiness within me.  When that towel fell off my mirror, I actually felt relieved!

So does all this mean that I obsess over my appearance?

I’ll leave that for you to decide.

October 8, 2009

Mirror Experiment- Day 2

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:12 pm by kellyfdennis

vintage-mirror-frame-isolated-100148377Ok, so I was expecting day 2 to be easier than day1.  It wasn’t.

I picked clothes that I had not worn together before.  Therefore, when I got dressed this morning, I was wondering how the whole ensemble looked…of course, I couldn’t check…no mirrors. I looked for lint and whatnot, I was fine there, but I couldn’t help wondering if this outfit was flattering, or professional enough.  So, I let it go and proceeded to do my hair.  No one mentioned any sticky uppy parts yesterday, so I did it the same way.  I patted around to make sure the gel would keep that stubborn hair in place.

Next came make up.  Once again I had to use the compact for eyeliner.  It was harder today to resist the urge to look elsewhere with the compact.  But I didn’t.  I moved on to mascara; again wondering if I had the same amount on both eyes.

As I left the house, I remembering wondering why it was so important to me that I look “put together”. Today I didn’t glance at the mirror right inside our back door…I remembered that I wouldn’t be able to check.

Once in the car, I thought, “I could just glance a little longer in the rear view mirror while backing up…then I would be sure that at least my hair and make up were ok, even if my outfit may be off base.”

But I didn’t.

Once I got to work, the experiment was easier because I was distracted.  However, I remember wondering if my first client was critiquing my outfit, as she is a “well dressed” woman. After I got going with clients, though,  I really didn’t think about my appearance or the experiment.  Until lunch.  I went in the bathroom and had to think about whether or not I wanted to cheat and look at my outfit. (no spinach for lunch today, so teeth weren’t a problem.)  I stood in the doorway and tried to figure out the answer to the question which plagued me earlier. Why is it so important to me that I look “put together”?  I realized that to me, “put together” means competent.  If my appearance is “right” then my clients will perceive me as competent.

Anyone who knows me can guess what I said next…”that’s ridiculous!”. Competence as a counselor is based on many things.  Sure, appearance plays into how I am perceived, but not nearly as much as I was imagining.  I didn’t look in the bathroom mirror.

I finished out my counseling day and proceeded into the front office to wrap up. I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the plate glass window that separates the waiting room from the front office…my outfit looked ok.

Boy, is this challenging. Tomorrow will be easier, right?

October 7, 2009

Mirror Experiment-Day 1

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:12 pm by kellyfdennis

blue-mirror-glass-building-100107185Ok, so Day 1 isn’t technically over yet, but I won’t be in the mood to blog later (this I know about myself). So here are my reflections (pun definitely intended) on “no mirrors”.

First, I feel compelled to mention that I do realize that appearance has importance in our society.  We are judged and we judge others based on  appearance, almost instinctively.  The purpose of this experiment is to determine just how much we obsess over appearance and how much that obsession gets in our way.

I discovered that I am exposed to many mirrors during the day.  I covered the ones I use most at my home.  However, I quickly realized that I would not be able to cover all the mirrors I use in a day (the rear view mirror in my car, for example!).  I also did not cover the mirrors at work.

Getting dressed without mirrors didn’t create feelings of anxiety for me.  I could look at my shirt and slacks to determine if lint (or other things that didn’t belong) were there.  So far, so good.  Of course, I had picked an outfit that I have worn before which I like.

Next came doing my hair.  I have short hair that pretty much likes to do its own  thing, so I dried it with the hair dryer by feel.  Ok, so this was when a little bit of …hmmm…nervousness maybe, came in: I have a clump of hair in the back that likes to stick up.  Was it sticking up?  I couldn’t tell, so I put more gel on it to make sure it stayed down.  Surley, I thought, someone will tell me if it’s sticking up.

Make up..hmm…had to cheat here and get out a little compact to do eyeliner…didn’t want to poke my eye out after all.  I put the compact away (without checking for sticky uppy hair) and put on my mascara. A little more apprehension here:  Did I have the same amount on both eyes? (Maybe I should do a “no makeup” experiment sometime.)

Brushed my teeth, flossed…ok that was easier no mirror required.

Walked to the door to leave for work and instinctively looked to my right (we have a mirror there which I had covered). Ha! Can’t check myself before I leave.

Got in the car, looked in the rear view mirror to back up.  I caught a glimpse of one eye…mascara seemed ok, resisted the urge to check for sticky uppy hair, although the urge was pretty strong.

Got to work, waited for comments, none came…I thought to myself, “I must not look too out of the ordinary.”

The time between getting to work and lunch was pretty uneventful, mirror-wise.  I didn’t really think about my appearance or the experiment.  Then I went to eat lunch…you’ll never guess what I brought…casserole with spinach!  UGH! I remember thinking, “Now what am I going to do…no mirror to check my teeth after spinach!” I really did have to think about this for a minute.  I”m a therapist afterall, and who wants to sit across from their therapist when she has spinach in her teeth…how distracting! I decided to eat the casserole (the other option was to go buy something to eat, which I didn’t have time to do).  I drank some water and “swished”, ran my tongue over my teeth…it didn’t feel like anything was stuck.  Ok, I decided to move on…surely, someone would tell me if I had spinach in my teeth.

I went to use the bathroom at work (there is a mirror in there). I looked off to the side as I was washing my hands, but I gotta say that the urge to look was very strong! That sticky-uppy-hair and spinach-in-the-teeth thing was getting the best of me! But in the end, I resisted. Whew!

I saw the rest of my clients for the day and then headed out to my car to go home.  As I sat in my car debriefing from the day, I rolled my shoulders and instinctively looked up..right into the rear view mirror! I quickly looked away, but not before I had seen my reflection!

My thoughts: This is really more difficult than one would think it would be. I realized that I think about what others are thinking about my appearance.  I also realized that my “professional” persona and appearance are connected for me.

So how’d it go for you?

October 6, 2009

Reflections on Mirrors

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:19 pm by kellyfdennis

antique-mirror-100186151These next few blogs are reposts of an experiment I did with some of my clients a couple of years ago. Since the subject of body checking is coming up more frequently, I thought they would be relevant.

So what did ancient people do without mirrors to reflect their image  back to them?  Did they escape the bondage that mirrors can sometimes bring to people who struggle with negative body image?

I wonder what would happen if you covered all the mirrors in your house for three days? How would you feel? Would you even be able to follow through with the experiment?

So, let’s try it…

October 2, 2009


Posted in Self Image tagged , , , , , , , at 12:57 am by kellyfdennis

Discover a New Day logo smallThe person across from me asks, “Am I attractive? What do others think of me?”

I respond, “What do you think of yourself?”

The person sitting across from me doesn’t know how to respond.  She is so accustomed to assessing herself upon others’ reactions that she doesn’t know the answer to the question.

I say “society says you must be thin, young, vivacious.”

She responds, “that’s right, people will accept me if I am those things.”

“Really?” I ask.

Beauty…the true campaign website has this to say about it:

“What you believe about your identity has a direct correlation to what you believe about beauty. For example, if you believe our culture’s message that says your identity is defined by your outward appearance, this belief will likely lead you to focus on what you can do to change, alter or ‘perfect’ your outward appearance. Or perhaps, it will lead you to give up on taking care of your body altogether – the images presented in the media too difficult to even try measuring up to. Ironically, the frustration, disappointment, anxiety and emptiness that accompany such pursuits are quite the opposite of true beauty. 1

Our culture teaches women that beauty is skin deep.

But it’s not…

Beauty is an inner quality. Character, Temperament, Love…

To experience true beauty is to live a life that embraces and expresses the beauty and goodness of life itself.

I think you’re beautiful.

About Me

Posted in News tagged at 12:21 am by kellyfdennis

I have a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology as well as a license as a professional counselor from the state of Pennsylvania and am a member of the American Counseling Association as well as a member of the National Eating Disorders Association. In addition, I hold certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors. In my approach to counseling, I focus on the whole person: physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological. I utilize a combination of approaches including cognitive therapy, which focuses on helping you to change errors in thinking, negativity, dysfunctional beliefs, pessimism and the tendency to focus on problems and failures rather than successes. In addition, I believe strongly in the importance of the counselor/client relationship.


ponderings on life, food, God, and love

Grace on the Moon

Do Not Weigh Your Self-Esteem on a Scale

on anything and everything

my thoughts on what I see