Mirror, Mirror - Individual Beauty and The Sense of Self
As a sort of personal and social experiment, I once went 7 days straight without looking in the mirror. Which, in turn, amounted in 7 straight days without makeup, without a hair do (the hair was still there, it just had clearance to run amok), and without knowing whether my skin was breaking out. It was most certainly a test of wills. Sure, there were moments where I accidentally caught a glimpse whilst walking by an unexpected reflective surface but for the most part, it was a mirrorless week.
The first day or two was a bit nerve wracking, but still had an underlying sense of liberation. Any time we quit something – whether it’s a positive or negative habit – we have this reaction. We feel a little lost without it, but the enthusiasm to overcome it is still offering a high of sorts. The third and fourth day were a bit more difficult. I was more reserved and my conviction wained. I noticed that people looked at me differently, and at first I thought it was because I wasn’t wearing makeup. (Why do people always assume that a woman has a cold if she doesn’t wear makeup?). But it became more and more obvious it was actually my attitude they were responding to, not my face. I became more angry, a little more hostile, and quick to bite.
A few days in:
“Have you noticed a difference in me since I started this experiment?” I asked my partner.
Yeah. You won’t stop asking me if you look ok.”
Well that certainly wasn’t the intended goal. The problem was two-fold. First: my own perception of other’s perceptions. I assumed that they didn’t think I was as attractive, but actually I was putting out a much less attractive person through my energy. The tension was obviously palpable, because people would adversely react to my negativity (even if it was nonverbal) immediately.
The second was where I drew my reflection from. In life and in love, it’s completely normal and even quite healthy to draw some of our sense of self through other’s feelings. That’s why new love feels so good! This other person sees the great in you, and so you can see it more clearly too. My coupledom isn’t new, but I was clearly drawing too heavily upon his feedback for my own sense of worth.
When the week ended, nothing spectacular happened. I didn’t come to any large awakenings as I was hoping, and the mirror didn’t greet me with a parade of enlightenment or encouragement. But after that many days, a girl begin to forget the little details of her face. Upon that first glance back, though there may not have been fireworks, there was certainly a spark. Freckles I had forgotten seemed more obvious, like the return of old friends. My hair actually looked beautiful, even as untamed as it was. The eyes were bigger than I remembered, and glowed a gorgeous green. And even though I had been expecting to see a blemish covered complexion and a sad expression, what I found was a smirk, and a crush on myself again. I swiped on a little lipstick, left the hair down, and went out to have a drink with my friends.
It may not have resulted in a deeply profound article about beauty and our obsession with appearance, but it did let me re-meet my individual beauty again, just as it is: the beloved bosom buddy that’s always been with me, every step of the way.
Rachael Yahne is a a freelance journalist, blogger and poet. For more of her writing visit HereAfter.com