Reflections on my month without mirrors | North State Voices

Have you ever said to yourself, “I look good today,” only to change your mind a few minutes later after catching your reflection in the mirror? If that’s never happened to you, this story may seem silly. But for me, and perhaps for you too, it’s a familiar chain of thought.

It’s been a long time since I saw smooth skin in the mirror. I chuckle at a memory from years ago, when I was playing with one of my preschool-aged cousins who innocently asked, “why do you have all those holes in your face?” Pores, honey. My oily teenage pores!

The only thing more honest than a curious child is a mirror. Honesty is good. But you know what they say about having too much of a good thing …

That’s why recently, I stepped away from my reflection. It didn’t start with a conscious choice of “I’ll go a month without looking in the mirror.” It was more of an abrupt reaction.

One evening as I did my usual bedtime routine of scrutinizing myself in the bathroom mirror, I noticed a red mark beneath my eye. It stood out starkly on my pale face. After a checkup with Dr. Google, I realized it’s a broken capillary, likely caused by my fondness for boiling hot showers.

I was upset. Unlike a pimple which may be annoying but eventually goes away, burst capillaries do not heal. I stared at my face, which could be worse but could also be a lot better. Fine lines have etched themselves in my forehead even as my chin is still dotted with acne. I know it’s vain to care so much about superficial things, but I couldn’t stop myself.

That is, until I removed my reflection from sight. My bathroom mirror is attached to the door of the medicine cabinet. Frustrated at my own discontentment, I left the cabinet door wide open. The image of my face was replaced with nail clippers and a box of band-aids.

I didn’t close the cabinet for a month. Of course before I left the house I would take a peek to make sure there was no breakfast stuck in my teeth. But no more prolonged gazing. Since I don’t wear makeup and my hair is buzzed, I don’t need a mirror nearly as much as I thought I did.

Lack of reflection was liberating. Compulsively checking my appearance had consumed too much of my mental energy. When I felt self-conscious I had projected those feelings onto everyone. If in the morning I disliked what I saw in the mirror, I assumed anyone I interacted with throughout the day would share the same opinion.

I guess this would be the place to discuss how culture often measures worth based on appearance, how media emphasizes impossible beauty standards, and the inundation of photoshopped and filtered photos. But truthfully, I can’t blame society. I don’t even have an Instagram. The problem is my own perception and attitude.

Have you ever gone on a camping trip and returned sweaty and dusty yet feeling very grounded? Probably 90% of that is from being outdoors and away from the hassle of everyday life. For me, the other 10% comes from simply existing in my body. Our natural state is not supposed to be fixated on how others see us.

Going mirrorless didn’t magically cure all my insecurities but it did give me a tiny taste of that camping serenity. Although in the future I’m not going to hide from mirrors like a vampire, I do want to have a healthier relationship with my reflection.

Mostly, it’s a list of things not to do. Not to inspect myself daily for wear and tear. Not to evaluate my image as a barometer to decide my mood for the day. Not to feel pretty or unpretty, but to not really think about it at all.

You can reach Lizi Lee at: asklizilee@gmail.com 

 

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