MIRROR-FASTING: PASSING THE FINISHING LINE AND BEYOND
This post has been a little overdue, but I didn’t want to submit it until a few weeks after I’d finished the mirror-fast. I figured that my trip back into reality would be better documented once I had time to get back into my normal routine and see how the experiment’s effects panned out over time.
I’m here now and I’m ready to sum up the fast. So here you have it:
It’s all over. 30 days of mirror-less existence, and it’s all finished up. I can look in the mirror, wear make-up, stop dodging my reflections, take the lift (I’ve been avoiding that mirrored back wall for quite a while) and take selfies til my heart’s content.
It still feels a little odd directly looking in the mirror in shops and bathrooms. I feel a twinge of guilt, almost like I’ve let myself get caught doing something I shouldn’t be. Maybe it’s inner me getting angry that I’ve turned my back on mirror-fasting just as I had gotten the hang out it, but then it was never going to be anything other than a month long experiment. I don’t believe mirror-fasting could ever be a good lifestyle choice nor do I feel it needs to be. But I’ll explain all that in a bit.
Since I’ve been finished the fast for a few weeks, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the difference it made and the lasting effects of doing something as drastic as a mirror-fast, but I guess I’d better start off with the initial reactions of seeing myself once again for the first time.
So rewind back a few weeks….
I bet you’re all wondering how I felt when I took the towel down off the mirror. Did I suddenly have an epiphany and see myself in a new light? Did I notice a new-found confidence in myself that previously had been overlooked? Did I cut myself some slack in the vanity department?
Well… honestly… not really. My grand unveiling wasn’t as grand as I’m sure many would imagine it to be. Having only mirror-fasted for a month, I knew no dramatic changes were going to happen. My appearance was just as it was before, and my opinion of it stayed pretty much the same. I didn’t spend an age sussing myself out in the mirror looking for something to take from all this fasting, but then again maybe that’s progress in itself. Since giving up the mirror, I haven’t felt a need to have as many “quick glances” as I previously would’ve. I’ve gone to college and social gatherings without make-up and essentially made very little changes to my life as a whole. That’s either a product of laziness or else I’ve gained an ability to let my personality do the talking when my looks fall a bit behind. Not sure. Not sure at all.
I think this is taking things back to the sense of “self-awareness” I mentioned in an earlier post. I know now that if I want to have a lazy day and not doll myself up, the only person who’ll truly be affected by it is me. The world doesn’t stop turning when I stop buying into vanity. Previously, like so many others, I had a horrible vision of what it would be like to go out for a night and look like a complete wreck. I had confidence-ruining scenes whereby I pictured myself in all the glory of Bridget Jones as I stood near girls with looks taken straight out of magazines. I thought that mirror-fasting, that not looking my best and covered in make-up, that going out without the whole Getting Ready regime, that all of this would lead to me huddling in a corner wishing the ground would swallow me up to avoid the trauma of it all. But then the worst happened and I put myself in that situation. I went out and genuinely felt that I looked a wreck. I hadn’t done my hair, my make-up and had no idea how I looked. I didn’t feel liberated like other mirror-fasters might imply (and power to them) but I felt overwhelmed and incredibly inferior. Then, after a while, I felt okay. It was automatic survival mode in the most vain sense imaginable. The worst had happened and it wasn’t as awful as I thought. I could go out and enjoy myself and be in control even if I didn’t feel beautiful enough to be entitled to such. That’s vain and I can acknowledge as much. But it’s a revelation for me nonetheless.
So revelation 1: Mirror-fasting made me realise that people don’t look at me any differently whether I’m wearing makeup or not. That part was in my head. It made me listen and accept compliments more instead of shrugging them off so easily. I became more appreciative of advice and words of encouragement from my friends too. For example, when I was picking outfits to wear for nights out, all I had were the opinions of those around me and how the clothes felt on me to judge my image on.
Revelation 2: Mirror-fasting doesn’t work miracles. I didn’t feel instantly confident and liberated once I stopped being able to see my own reflection. Removing a mirror didn’t change the way I felt about myself. To be completely honest, I didn’t expect it to anyway. It doesn’t take an expert to realise that self-esteem is about so much more than the way a person looks. It’s more about how a person views themselves mentally, not physically. That said, it took removing the mirror for me to accept as much and genuinely tackle any confidence issues that I had. It took taking away my physical image for me to work at my mental one. Overall, I’d say mirror-fasting can improve a person’s confidence and self-esteem, but it’s the process and not the removal of the object itself that leads to improvements.
Revelation 3: The only limitations you get from mirror-fasting is control. And that can be taken back. The only limitations that I experienced (aside from learning how to use curlers and hairdryers without using a mirror) were the obvious ones – I felt an immediate drop in confidence and control over how I looked.
This all subsided once I got used to mirror-fasting, but when I first started it, I felt awful. I didn’t want to go out because I became incredibly self-conscious about how I looked. I felt underdressed and unattractive and I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it. I very nearly decided that nightclubs and social events would just have to be brought to a standstill for the month because I couldn’t cope with feeling so out of place with those around me. But then I got over it.
I think in general, we’re all guilty of constantly looking in the mirror whether we realise it or not. Mirrors and reflective surfaces are everywhere – it’s only when you’re trying to avoid them that you learn as much. A person sees their reflection every time they go to wash their hands, enter a lift, get into a car, walk past a window, on skype, taking phone selfies… Before we know it, we’re seeing our own faces a dozen times a day. It’s not an obsession; it’s just the world we live in.
I’m delighted to have the mirror-fasting over and done with and no, I can’t see myself doing it again. I’m just not sure I need to. I’ve learnt that the world doesn’t stop spinning once I stop looking at my reflection and I’ve learnt that my attitude to enjoying a night out doesn’t have to be based on how good I look. At the end of the day though, dressing up and a little bit of vanity is important too. I love getting ready to head out – it’s not a chore, it’s something I really enjoy doing. I think over-indulgence in appearance is unhealthy, but so is completely abandoning it all.
That’s my two cents anyway 🙂