DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?
Can avoiding mirrors for a week improve your body image?
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.