The Woman in the Mirror

A young, vibrant girl, let’s call her Nisha, came to me for counselling. She was going through a divorce. One of the main reasons why her marriage took an ugly turn was that she had issues with her mother-in-law. 

Nisha’s story was heartbreaking. This was a girl whose self-esteem had been systematically destroyed. She didn’t feel confident or beautiful at all. This negative outlook towards herself grew worse by the day, because mother-in-law repeatedly told her she didn’t have the right size of boobs and bums to satisfy her son’s sexual desires. 

The mother-in-law, being a voluptuous woman herself, never minced her words while stating her displeasure towards the young girl’s body type, and her obvious inability to satisfy her son in bed. Things grew worse when she started insulting the body type of Nisha’s family members. Naturally, the girl was traumatised.

It isn’t easy to deal with emotionally abusive people, especially with a spouse who never speaks up for you. Even though the mother-in-law didn’t stay with them, her words were enough to destroy Nisha mentally and emotionally. One doesn’t need to hit the body to damage the soul. 

Today, the girl is doing much better but I must say, the journey wasn’t easy. I had to sit with her as she shared intimate details of the verbal and emotional abuse she suffered. She went through a phase where she was scared to look at herself in the mirror. She was so shattered that she felt she couldn’t collect those broken pieces of her soul and rebuild herself.  

During therapy, I often reiterated to her that she was now free, and out of that setting. She had pulled away from that abusive woman and that in itself was a great act of bravery towards herself.

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Once she calmed down, the next step was to get her to see herself naked in front of the mirror. I wasn’t there, but I completely trusted her that she would do it. It took her time to look at herself and embrace her body, love and appreciate each part of her body. To reclaim control of her body to herself, thereby setting herself free from the bondages of what other people thought. Very gradually, she grew comfortable in her own skin. 

Within months, there was a remarkable change in the texture of her skin, the quality of her hair. Her smile was radiant and her eyes twinkled—all signs that she was healing beautifully.

Trauma gets trapped in the body in the form of unexplainable body aches and seemingly idiopathic diseases. The only way to heal is to go through the painful experience of sitting with oneself as you become vulnerable, talking about those heart-slicing statements, devastating situations, feeling those emotions again and slowly reclaiming control over your body, within the safe boundaries of therapy. 

The next thing that we did together was to make her promise certain vows to herself. Some of them were:

I will not betray myself by believing that I am not beautiful. 

I will take care of myself in sickness and in health, through bad times and through good times, until my last breath. 

The most important person I should love, honour and respect is myself, and then comes the world. 

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She made these affirmations not because she was going through a divorce or she planned to not get married ever. This was done to tell herself that self love is a duty towards herself, and that we can only love better when we love ourselves better. 

Through our sessions, we also realised that sometimes we meet people who mirror the condition of our heart. She had never stood up for herself, had always believed what others told her she was, her standards of beauty were also set by others. So slowly, we built confidence and she rebuilt herself on the standards that she set for herself. 

As she healed and therapy progressed, I saw her transform into a self-sufficient,empowered woman. This was the story of a girl who chose to heal and liberate herself. Every woman is a hero because we fight intimate battles that no one knows of. 

Consider your body to be premium. Be sensitive to the sensation changes in your body based on how someone talks to you. They can be uplifting or demeaning. Create boundaries accordingly. Above all else, speak kindly to your body. Beauty is mind deep too. 

Meet the Writer: Sherly Mathew
Sherly Mathew is a freelance counsellor based in Delhi. She handles cases relating to trauma, grief, self-esteem, anger issues and mostly works with women who are going through or have come out of abusive or difficult relationships.

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