The following post is reproduced with permission from Autumn Whitefield-Madrano from her blog “The Beheld: Beauty, And What It Means”. To hear more about her project, please visit http://www.the-beheld.com/p/month-without-mirrors.html.
I abstained from looking at my reflection for the month of May 2011. The goal was to loosen the grip that self-consciousness has had on me for much of my life—that happened, to a degree, but what I discovered during my month without mirrors was the way in which I use mirrors to manage other facets of my life. You can read my reflections (get it?!) throughout the experiment here, read the conclusion here, or just check out the following individual entries:
• What the mirror fast taught me about how I regard strangers: “Not feeling like I had an accurate reading of whether that fellow was looking at me with approval, disdain, lust, curiosity, attraction, or repulsion left me feeling adrift. I had no anchor to hold onto, no private feeling of, ‘Well, I do look nice today’ or ‘I wish he would stop staring at the enormous pimple on my chin.’ Without having any idea what he might be seeing, I had no idea how I should feel about him looking at me.”
• Why looking into the mirror actually require no mirrors at all: “I turned the box on its side to look at the nutritional information, then withdrew my hand from the box as though it were a hot iron. Because I’m not supposed to be looking in mirrors.”
• News flash, ladies! You don’t always have to look pretty: “Letting go of the imaginary control the mirror gives forces me to lift the controls I believed I have over my physical allure. I thought I always had to look pretty because I thought it was something that was within my control, when it isn’t. Clean, groomed, and reasonable, yes. Beyond that? It’s up to you, not me.”
• On vacation with no idea what I looked like: “I felt present, and quiet, existing in the eyes of someone I care for, and he existing in mine. I did not feel beautiful. It did not matter.”
• What it’s like to shop for clothes when you can’t look at yourself: “‘You can always ask what we think,’ said the salesperson, and smiled. ‘It’s what we’re here for.'”
• What the etymology of the word mirror teaches us about our relationship with our reflection.
• A Month Without Mirrors, Day 31: “What I didn’t realize until I was unburdened from some of my self-imposed (and likely invented) expectations was exactly how much of my energy was going into appearing. Appearing to be interested, appearing to be womanly, appearing to be a professional lady, appearing to be pretty. No wonder I’m exhausted.”