One hundred days without a mirror

This Monday celebrated our nation’s independence, and also marked the 101st day of my decision to go a year without mirrors. It seemed like an auspicious time to give About-Face a progress report!

1) FEASIBILITY: YES, I have been able to almost completely remove mirrors from my life, and I no longer feel dependent on them. This feels is pretty phenomenal.  Still, it’s been really difficult, and sometimes I still slip up.  In other words, I’m not yet 100% mirror-free.  Mirrors and reflective surfaces are everywhere, and even the most stringent measures haven’t prevented accidental glimpses.  (Darn those ATM security cameras!) These peripheral peeks have been mostly benign, but every so often, “seeing myself” has led to “looking at myself,” which is totally against the rules.

At first these little cheats were motivated by burning curiosity (insecurity?) about my looks, but I’ve calmed a bit about that (see below for details).  Recently, however, I’ve been mourning the loss of creativity that used to go toward my daily makeup, hairstyling, and outfit choices; I look longingly at my exceedingly excessive collection of abandoned beauty products, and am SO tempted to push aside the curtain hung over my bathroom mirror and. … play! The good news is that these urges seem motivated by body-positive creativity, instead of body-negative insecurity.  Hooray!

2) TRUST: When I first started avoiding mirrors I felt paranoid about my appearance.  (Heck, sometimes I felt paranoid that I didn’t even exist when I couldn’t see myself!).  I became that annoying girl who constantly asks everybody “Do I look okay??!,” and was unnerved to discover that I didn’t even trust people when they told me I did.  This was profoundly depressing – had I ever trusted a compliment on my looks?

Well, the paranoia faded in time (though I am still very curious about my looks), and I’ve learned that my friends and family are much kinder to me than I typically have been to myself. Yes, people let me know when I have mascara on my nose or food on my shirt, but pointing out a mouth full of poppy-seeds is drastically different from the disapproval (or disgust) that I used to project at my reflection in the mirror.   I’ve started to trust these outside opinions a bit more, and my (critical) self a bit less.

So…. do I have FANTASTIC BODY IMAGE now?  Well, no.  But I never expected to reverse a 15+year issue in only a few months.  That would be ridiculously simple, and – as is true for most women – my body image remains ridiculously complex.   Yet I’m seeing small positive changes, and these give me hope.


A few weeks ago I challenged myself to complete all 37 items on TheKnot.com’s Bridal Beauty: Countdown to Gorgeous list without looking into a mirror.  (I’m getting married in October.) So…  I got my eyebrows waxed without seeing the results, I downward-dogged with only my sister’s perky rear to guide my form, and I bared my soul to the world-wide-web, regarding my body image struggles… Yet, the item on this list that scares me the most is the only item I’m NOT ALLOWED to complete; the last thing I’m supposed to do before walking down the aisle, is:

“Take a few moments to reflect on the meaning of the day before giving yourself one last once-over in the mirror.”

Yeah, that “last once-over in the mirror” is definitely not permitted in the rules of my project.  But, I’m scared I’ll regret not doing this.  Not only will I be desperately curious to know what I’ll look like as a bride, but SO many trusted, sane, wise, and not-ridiculously-vain women in my life (hi mom!) have told me that I NEED to take a moment alone to see myself on the day that I get married.  I’ve been told that this won’t be about my looks, but about quietly recognizing myself for just one quiet moment during a whirlwind day of momentous transition. And that doesn’t sound so bad, right?

Or…. maybe this moment-in-front-of-the-mirror thing is just one more overly-romantic bridal “must-do” myth, and I’d be buying into it at the cost of this projects’ integrity.  I don’t have the answer yet, and probably won’t until that moment arrives (or doesn’t).

What do you think?


5 thoughts on “One hundred days without a mirror

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  1. At first I was really tempted to jump in an admit my guilt in committing the cardinal good body image sin of excessive mirror gazing. I have 2 in my bedroom, and a huge ass one in my bathroom. Am I dependent on these mirrors for my self esteem though? I wouldn’t say so. I use the full length one in my room to see if my outfit goes together, but I’d have to say as I’ve gotten older I definitely don’t RELY upon them. Having said that, I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with wanting to know you look good. Some people feel absolutely shit if they’re having a bad hair day, which is not cool. But I don’t think that’s a reason to deride people who feel magnificent if they’re hair is curling just so, or because they just got their eyebrows waxed and are feeling super hot. I guess it is a fine line to tread between enjoying what you love about your physical appearance and depending upon it for self-worth…

  2. One of my happiest and most powerful memories of my best friend’s wedding is the moment when, after all of her friends had helped her into her corset and dress, she took her first glance in the mirror and saw herself as a bride. At that moment, it wasn’t about checking appearances, but about seeing herself as the radiant beautiful woman that her soon-to-be-husband saw her as every single day.

    I like your distinction between looking and seeing, I think it’s very important. At that moment, my friend wasn’t looking at herself at all, but seeing herself as she was.

  3. I think TheKnot’s wording is geared more towards “looking” at yourself – making sure everything is perfect and in place. Also they suggest reflecting on the moment BEFORE looking at the mirror for a “once over.” A once over is definitely not a moment of quiet reflection and the realization that you are embarking on a wonderful journey with the person you love. However I think I agree with your mom and Joi, if you take the moment in the mirror to reflect on this and not double check your make-up or fret about a stray hair, then “seeing” yourself in the mirror is okay. TheKnot’s reason for this goes against the rules. But choose your own reason for doing so and make it your own experience.

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