Dressing rooms with deceptive mirrors and fluorescent lighting are notorious self-esteem killers. But one women is urging women to take her “dressing room challenge” to make shopping a more body-positive experience.
On Friday, Susan Albers, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Wooster, Ohio, posed the call to action on Facebook after a shopping trip earlier that day. “In the dressing room, there were two young ladies looking in the full length hall mirror,” she wrote. “As I shut the door, I could hear one of them say, “In this, I look like a f** *** *** (I don’t care to repeat). Dressing rooms aren’t always a pleasant experience — wall-to-wall mirrors, unflattering lighting, and doors that barely shut. Trying on the wrong shape or color of clothing can cut deep into your self-esteem. I get it ladies!”
Albers continued: “My plea to you. Speak mindfully. ‘No thank you’ or ‘pass’ will do. Please remember that whether they are 6 or 60, everyone around you absorbs every word you say about your body. You are a role model about the words and phrases that are ‘okay’ to attach to women’s bodies.”
She then asked people to take what she calls the “Dressing Room Challenge.” “Don’t let your inner critic enter the dressing room with you,” she wrote. “Leave her behind. Have fun in there. Say something affirming to yourself. Or, if that is too difficult, try directing positive vibes to someone else.”
Albers tells Yahoo Style, “I was trying on a dress while one of the women was describing herself as a ‘cow.’ I’m looking at my own reflection in the mirror and thinking about the other women in the dressing area who could also hear the conversation.”
The problem with this dialogue is twofold: Not only can self-deprecating thoughts erode a person’s self-confidence, but the person listening is then also tasked with either helping or hurting the situation with her response. And if the friend suffers from self-esteem issues of her own, the conversation may trigger negative feelings about her own appearance.
To resist the urge to self-critique, Albers suggests replacing negative reactions with positive or neutral thoughts. “Once you walk into the dressing room, tell yourself, ‘I will leave my inner critic at the door,’” she says. “If you don’t like how you look, say, ‘This shirt isn’t as flattering as the other one’ or ‘I liked the other pants better.’”
Albers added that she makes a habit of bestowing praise on other women in the dressing room — “I don’t hesitate to tell her she looks absolutely amazing” — and urges others to do the same. “So rarely do we give spontaneous compliments, which is unfortunate, because objective praise is often perceived as more genuine,” she says. “And be sure to say ‘thank you’ if you receive the same.”
Also, know this: Dressing rooms don’t always provide the most honest assessment, thanks to the strategic lighting and tinted mirrors that make merchandise more appealing. In February, a Russian woman launched an experiment that involved photographing herself in 11 different dressing rooms in retail stores such as Zara and H&M. In some rooms, her face appeared thinner and her skin smoother; in others her body looked leaner. Some stores in the United Kingdom are even dealing with this disparity by banning dressing room mirrors altogether to help women focus on how they feel in clothes, more so than how they look. Smart!
Read more from Yahoo Style and Beauty:
- Shopping at Fancy Stores Can Impact Your Personality
- Mom’s Bikini Photo Proves Women Can Be ‘Gorgeous’ With Cellulite
- Model Candice Huffine’s Inspiring Advice About Having a ‘Perfect’ Body