Can avoid­ing mir­rors for a week im­prove your body im­age?

Women's Health (UK) - - CONTENTS -

It was when I caught sight of my­self as I walked into a lift – and jumped back, squeal­ing – that I re­alised the ‘mir­ror fast’ I had agreed to take on wasn’t go­ing to be the piece of cake I’d hoped. Avoid look­ing at my own mug for a week? Sure. Sounds great ac­tu­ally, be­cause – hon­estly? – there’s rarely an in­stance where I scan my re­flec­tion, top to toe, and feel al­to­gether happy with what I see. Which is not only why the idea of swerv­ing five con­sec­u­tive days of mir­rorgaz­ing ap­pealed to me, but is also the very rea­son ad­vo­cates en­cour­age you to fol­low suit.

The the­ory be­hind the mir­ror fast­ing con­cept is based on a slew of sur­veys and anec­dotes that high­light how much the av­er­age woman scru­ti­nises her re­flec­tion – and the ef­fect that this can have on self-per­cep­tion and con­fi­dence. The lat­est fig­ures sug­gest the av­er­age Bri­tish woman checks her­self out 16 times ev­ery day (ex­clud­ing glances in win­dows or self­ies), with the ma­jor­ity say­ing that this con­stant mon­i­tor­ing of their ap­pear­ance is for re­as­sur­ance, rather than to ad­mire them­selves or pro­mote self-ac­cep­tance.

The up­shot of this con­stant rub­ber­neck­ing, for most, is feel­ing more neg­a­tive about your­self. There­fore, the mir­ror-fast ar­gu­ment goes, the less you look in the mir­ror, the more pos­i­tive you’ll feel about your­self and your aes­thet­ics.

I wouldn’t say I’m vain. You’ll never see me move faster than when avoid­ing a smart­phone in cam­era mode, and I rarely sport a full face of make-up or swap my dun­ga­rees and Con­verse for what my mum would deem ‘adult’ clothes. But wak­ing up on the first day and walk­ing straight past my bed­room’s full-length mir­ror – which I’d slung a throw over so I wouldn’t ac­ci­den­tally eye­ball my­self – made me feel un­easy. Never had I de­sired to look at my own re­flec­tion

more now that it was off lim­its. Was this the first sign of how con­di­tioned I’ve be­come to judge my­self by what I see in the mir­ror?

Bath­rooms proved trick­i­est to nav­i­gate in my week-long ex­per­i­ment. Each time I washed my hands and brushed my teeth, my head pinged up of its own ac­cord, search­ing mind­lessly for my own face to in­spect. The small mir­ror above the sink in my bath­room at home could be cov­ered with a few sheets of pa­per in a Blue Peter badge-wor­thy ef­fort. But pub­lic toi­lets? Of­fice loos? Gym chang­ing rooms? They’re bloody lit­tered with re­flec­tive glass. By day two, I’d learnt that the hours out­side my own home were safer spent with my eyes fixed on the floor for fear I’d come across an un­ex­pected mir­ror and ‘cheat’.

If the goal of this new stealthy way of liv­ing was to in­crease my con­fi­dence, I wouldn’t say it de­liv­ered. I felt so pre­oc­cu­pied with avoid­ing my re­flec­tion – shop win­dows, you’re my neme­sis – that I ac­tu­ally thought

more about it (and what I might look like in re­al­ity) than usual. With­out mir­rors for guid­ance, I es­chewed make-up and hair styling and pulled old favourites out of the wardrobe, then apol­o­gised to col­leagues and friends in case I ‘looked like a state’.

All clear signs that I’m too re­liant on my im­age for con­fi­dence, yes, but that’s a big­ger is­sue. One, it turns out, not eas­ily fixed by spend­ing a week bend­ing over back­wards to avoid catch­ing a glimpse of my­self.

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