The idea of challenging myself to not look in a mirror for a week came to me as I sat staring at myself in the mirror after a long day. My face had broken out (Thanks, PMS!) and I spent at least 10 minutes in front of the mirror picking out every single flaw, and probably imagining several others. I hated my eyebrows, the shape of my nose, and the way my ears stuck out. I was mad at my mirror, I was mad at my body, I was mad at my face. But mostly, I was mad at myself for wasting precious time looking at my reflection and hating it. At 24, I thought I was getting to the point in my life where I finally stopped disliking myself. But clearly this wasn't the case.
1. Avoid looking in a mirror for a week.
I would cover my mirrors and avoid anything that would show my reflection as much as possible.
2. If/when I do catch my reflection, look away as soon as possible.
It wasn't so much about not looking at myself as it was about not hating what I saw when I looked.
3. Try to avoid negative thinking revolving around my appearance.
Like I mentioned, this whole idea was started by the simple fact that I was unable to look at my reflection without tearing myself apart. That wasn't allowed to happen this week. Only positive thoughts about my appearance!
I set to work covering up my mirrors and preparing to not see myself for an entire week. Here's what I ended up learning over the course of seven days.
1. It took me much less time to get ready in the mornings.
To me, getting ready means brushing my hair, blow drying 45% of it, and then straightening the areas around my face enough for it to not be a weird, wavy mess. Then I generally throw it up into a messy bun and go on my way. It takes me approximately 45 minutes to get completely ready, makeup and all, on any given day. But on this day, it took me just 15 minutes to get ready. On my best days, I wear loose mineral powder, blush, and mascara. On this day, I attempted to do the same. Turns out that you CAN put on mascara without looking in a mirror. It's like trying to drive from memory instead of a GPS — terrifying yet totally doable. I was 30 minutes early to work.
2. There are a million different ways to see your reflection that do not involve looking in a mirror.
As I went through a day without looking in a mirror, I realized that it wasn't just mirrors that were allowing me to see my reflection. It was my phone, my rearview mirror, my windows, and other people's sunglasses. I knew before starting this challenge that I looked at myself a lot throughout the day, but I quickly began to realize that seeing my reflection would be much harder than I had anticipated. After the challenge, when I allowed myself to look at my reflection again, I counted 37 times that I saw myself in a normal day. Imagine trying to avoid these 37 moments every day — it was hard. I felt like Mariah Carey asking myself, Why you so obsessed with yourself?
3. I felt like I was 14 again.
Is 14 a good age for ANYONE? It certainly wasn't my best year — it was a year filled with insecurities and lots of staring at my feet. Somehow, by refusing to look at my reflection, I had been transported back in time to that awful, awkward stage of my life. I looked at my feet and the ground more times during this week than I have in the past four years. It was difficult for me to look people in the eyes. Because I couldn't see myself, I had to rely on others to determine how I looked for the day. It didn't take me long to notice that my insecurities brought out insecurities in others. If I looked at my feet a lot or played with my hair too much, they started to do the same. We are dishonest by trade, so worrying about my own insecurities made others assume I was really just worrying about theirs.
4. I purposely avoided people.
I felt insecure, shy, and I wanted nothing more than to just avoid people and avoid wondering what was crossing their minds as they looked at my face. As I mentioned, when I did speak with others, it was a lot of me playing with my hair and staring at my feet. So I began to just avoid seeing people altogether. It made things easier, and I felt more secure.
5. I couldn't make it three whole days.
It was inevitable in my mind, almost as if I knew I was going to cheat before I actually even cheated. I started getting ready for date night with my boyfriend. I got out of the shower and went straight to the mirror and pulled off the blanket. There I was, finally, looking back at myself. It was like finding chocolate the day before I started my period... I couldn't get enough. I began to blow-dry my hair, and then went the extra step and straightened it. I even applied my makeup — all while staring at my own reflection. I knew what I was doing was wrong; I knew I should stop. But I didn't. I even sent a Snapchat of my new shirt to my BFF using the mirror to capture it. Looking back on this now, it seems so stupid. Would he have cared had I not used a mirror? No. Would he have even noticed? Probably not. But I cared. I wanted to feel good about myself, and in order to do that, I felt like I had to see myself. Right before he arrived to pick me up, I re-covered the mirror. It was as if the whole cheating scandal had never happened.
6. And once I cheated, I kept cheating.
Know this: You cannot judge me more than I have already judged myself. I mean, really, I couldn't make it a week without looking at my reflection? But I couldn't! I cheated on date night, and cheated again the next day on my way home from work. I was driving along, minding my own business, when I was forced to stop at a yellow light. Traffic rules, am I right? As I was waiting for it to turn green again, I looked at the car next to me. Lo and behold, there was a woman there putting on lipstick using her mirror. I WANTED TO DO THE SAME. I had just recently gotten new lip stain at Target, after all. I peeked in my rearview mirror.
7. The way I imagined myself looking was not at all how I looked.
On the fifth day, my co-worker and I were out for a walk when I took a picture of her. (Do it for the Instagram, duh.) She then asked if I wanted one of my own. I was wearing new Nikes, so I said YES. I looked at the picture after not seeing myself that day and was pleasantly surprised. In my mind, I looked like the definition of a hot mess. In my imagination, my hair was frizzy and untamed. My shirt was probably wrinkled in places I couldn't easily see, and my face was blotchy and red. I was wrong. I looked fine — normal, even. Hey, maybe my reflection wasn't so bad after all.
8. Despite a lot of the negatives of the challenge, I began to miss my reflection.
It may sound strange, but I honestly didn't think I would miss seeing my reflection. I knew I would want to for the obvious reasons — checking my teeth, doing my hair, etc. But I never expected to miss seeing myself just because I wanted to see my brown eyes staring back at me.
9. When you force yourself to not look in the mirror, you can no longer cover up your impurities.
I woke up on day four with pimples. I couldn't see them — but I knew they were there. Not being able to look in the mirror to apply concealer was one of the hardest parts of this challenge. Just going out, knowing that there were impurities on my face and not being able to see to cover them up, left me feeling raw.
10. I expected people to notice something was different about me.
I was so concerned about my appearance from not being able to reassure myself by looking at my reflection that I was positive I looked disheveled at all times. If people came up to me to chat, I assumed we would be chatting about why I looked like such a hot mess. I was practically bracing myself for the inevitable "You look tired" statement. But it never came. When I finally DID look at my reflection at the end of the challenge, I realized that I looked fine and that I'm a paranoid mess. I mean, I looked pretty much the same way that I always do. I wasn't a hot mess. I was just me.
11. And finally, I was proud of myself, even after completely failing.
At first, I was ashamed of myself. I didn't even want to write this post. But in retrospect, I realized I should be proud of myself. Sure, I failed. Sure, it may seem like all I did was avoid my reflection for a couple of days. But it was so much more than that. I recognized one of my greatest insecurities and tried to do something about it. This challenge was important because it made me more self-aware. It made me face my insecurities head-on. And it made me appreciate my own damn reflection more. I actually enjoy looking at my reflection now. It all sounds very cliché — the idea that failing to complete my mirror challenge is something to be proud of. But it is. Say what you want about body image and our current obsession with it, but I've never been able to go a week without being mean to myself. And this week, I had. If attempting to not look in a mirror for a week can do that for me, I'll try it anytime.