It’s a habit most acne sufferers know. That insatiable urge to run and check the mirror a thousand times a day.
I’ve been there. You’ve been there.
What are we actually doing when we go to check the mirror? What are we trying to accomplish?
For some reason we are grasping to the desperate hope that the acne has magically cleared up in the last five minutes.
Except, of course, we know it hasn’t.
And then all that happens is that we are just reminded about our skin and more miserable than ever.
And we logically know this is pointless and just creates more pain. And may lead to picking at our skin, which makes our acne worse.
So why do we keep doing it?
The Critter Brain Is Responsible for Obsessive Acne Mirror Checking
We have this funny part of our brains that I like to call the critter brain.. sometimes referred to as “the lizard brain”. This is not a very logical part of your brain.
It’s only job is to keep you safe from mortal danger, and it is constantly scanning for it.
Except the problem is that it doesn’t know what’s real or what’s imagined. Anything that we imagine as a threat to our love or belonging or safety or security is deemed a mortal threat by our brains.
To your brain, a literal lion about to eat you, or imagining a scenario where someone rejects you is considered to be exactly the same level of “oh shit”.
What does your brain do when it senses danger?
It gives you a lot of anxiety.
Acne is the perfect so-called “danger”. It’s interpreted by us as an ultimate threat to our love and belonging.
In caveman days, threats to our love and belonging could literally mean death. There was safety in numbers, and if you were kicked out of the tribe, then you were likely going to find yourself dead by wild animal, hypothermia, or starvation. This is why we react so strongly to the potential judgment of others.
But in this day and age, it’s just simply not as serious as our brain makes it out to be.
Acne (or 99% of the things we get anxious about) are not actual mortal dangers. But your brain doesn’t know that, so no matter what it is that you are worrying about, it’s going to treat it as one.
And what does your brain want you to do when you are faced with a mortal danger? It wants you to freak the f out. It wants you to run. It wants you to fight. It wants you to do whatever it takes to stay alive at all costs.
This is the biological purpose of anxiety.
This is why acne makes you so anxious. This is why your brain wants you to run and fight and kick and scream when you get a breakout.
This is why your brain wants you to go and check the mirror a thousand times a day (or pick at it, or obsess over it, or buy a million products, or go on a strict diet, or the list goes on).
To your brain, acne is as bad as a lion about to eat you. Checking the mirror over and over is akin to exiting your cave every five minutes to see if the lion is still there or if it’s taken off.
Understanding Why You’re Obsessively Checking Acne in the Mirror is Key
Why am I telling you this?
I’m telling you this because it’s very important to understand how this works.
As humans, we take our thoughts and our emotions extremely seriously.
We think that because we thought it, it must be true or important or that we have to act on it.
We think that because we felt something difficult, it means that we have to do something so that we can avoid feeling that way ever again.
In fact, you can see how the critter brain is just full of BS. It tells you stories of doom because it wants you to stay alive, but in reality… well, it’s actually just being overly dramatic.
Unless you are actually, literally in mortal danger, then you don’t have to listen to what it says.
You don’t have to be so afraid of every thought and every emotion. You don’t have to be ruled by the fear. Because it’s false.
It’s just some cracked out satanic character in your brain trying to scare you.
So what I mean is that when you get the urge to check the mirror, remember what I said here. Remember that just because your brain told you to go look, doesn’t mean that anything bad is going to happen if you don’t do it.
What’s actually going to happen?
You’re going to feel uncomfortable for a few minutes. That’s it. And then it will pass.
What else is going to happen?
You’re going to be sending the message to your critter brain that acne isn’t life or death and it doesn’t need to make you so anxious about it.
When you don’t fight or flight from something you’re anxious about, your brain learns that it was perhaps not as big a threat as it thought. So next time, it won’t make you so anxious.
Your Feelings About Your Skin Comes From Your Thoughts About It
But… but…. IT FEELS WORSE THAN A LION ABOUT TO ATTACK ME! AHHHHH – quote: you
The other part of this is understanding that our emotions are always generated from our thoughts. And our thoughts are generated from what we believe to be true — aka the meaning that we give to our skin, or our life, our circumstances.
As mentioned, the meaning that we have given to acne is that it’s a threat.
We have determined that acne makes us ugly. If we’re ugly, then people will judge us. If they judge us, it means that we don’t deserve to lives our lives, do what makes us happy, to be seen, have love, or feel attractive.
That’s pretty scary, right?
Of course that’s going to make you feel sick, anxious, frustrated, and ashamed.
You have to understand that these emotions come from the THOUGHT. It comes from the thought about what acne means.
I repeat: It’s created by the thought… not from the acne itself.
The meaning we give to things is something we’ve created, based on how we’ve interpreted our lives up until that point.
Even though these meanings, these beliefs, feel inextricably true to us, they are NOT TRUE. They are just interpretations.
One person can be in the exact same situation as someone else. and think something completely different about it. This means they also feel completely different about it.
It’s the meaning that creates the pain, not the circumstance.
Which means if you change the meaning of something — or simply understand that we don’t have to take the meanings we’ve made up so seriously — then you change the emotion surrounding the thing that you think is causing you pain.
Changing the Meaning Behind the Acne Mirror Checking
Does acne really make you ugly?
What if it didn’t? Because you aren’t just your skin. You are a multi-faceted human being with a million amazing qualities, and your struggle with your skin is one small part of the essence of who you are. Everyone has ‘flaws’, which are entirely subjective and created in the mind. We reduce ourselves to being just our skin, in fact we are so much more. And attraction is much more than one quality. You don’t choose your friends, lovers, and acquaintances based on their lack of all human flaws, and neither do others.
But it’s horrible if people judge me!
People judge each other for the most random things that you can imagine, and it’s all based on their own stories and beliefs and actually have nothing to do with you. You might think they are looking at your skin, in fact they think your nose is too round (which is only because they hate their own nose). You actually quite like your nose, thank you very much – so you know they’re just whacko anyway. Point being — much like you don’t have to take your own thoughts so seriously, you also don’t have to take other people’s thoughts so seriously. Why give them the power? Do they deserve that much power? Is it worth it for other people’s whacko transient thought farts to rule what you do with your life and how you feel about yourself?
The reason we check the mirror obsessively (or any other self destructive habit) is because we are looking for a way to change the feelings we are having. We’re looking for a different experience.
The problem is, it gives us temporary relief from that intense buildup of anxiety, which is why we keep doing it.
In the long run, it makes us more miserable though and it just doesn’t work. It just perpetuates the story that acne is threatening, just making us more and more anxious. It invites more of the same difficult thoughts.
If you really start to understand what’s going on — and perhaps find new meaning in the thing that seems to be making you anxious — you may just find that your anxiety and urge to run to the mirror will naturally fall away.
The NLP Swish Pattern for Obsessive Acne Mirror Checking
What I’ve described above is really the heart of the matter, but something else you can try is called the NLP Swish Pattern.
Our brains get into habitual patterns, so when you think about your skin, you can’t help that it’s automatically going to be firing the urge to go check the mirror. It will happen before you have the chance to even consider what’s going on.
There’s no point getting mad at yourself for having the thought. It’s not that big a deal. Thoughts are just thoughts. Don’t make them into such a big deal!
Just remember why the thought is there (the critter brain trying to scare you), and that you don’t necessarily have to act on it. It’s ok. You will live!
But there is a trick you can use to try and “rewire” the trigger, so that when you think about your skin, it doesn’t trigger the urge to go look in the mirror.
The trigger in this case, is when you remember about your skin.
This triggers the fearful thoughts about your skin and that acne makes you ugly and etc etc etc, which leads to feelings of anxiety, and then you get the urge to go to the mirror to relieve the anxiety. So you check the mirror. And then you feel temporary relief, followed by more misery and the ever-continuing urge to check the mirror again.
The swish pattern helps you re-program your brain to change the response to the trigger. So instead of getting the urge to check the mirror when you think about your skin, you instead trigger a response that is more supportive and healthy.
Check out this guide on how to do the NLP swish pattern.
Are you an obsessive mirror checker? It’s ok, you’re not alone! Have you had any success with kicking the habit? Share your success secrets in the comments!