I promised Kjerstin Gruys that I would participate in her Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall blogger challenge. I promised her! My friend and colleague, a woman for whom I have tremendous respect and whose work I am proud to help promote. And friends, I managed to tackle the challenge … but still feel a bit like a failure.
I was really looking forward to this challenge because I have often gone for nearly full days without looking at myself in a mirror, then caught my reflection and realized I forgot to pencil in my eyebrows/wear earrings/fix my hair from that recent encounter with A High Wind. I can get so caught up in the day’s tasks and ruminations that I forget my physicality entirely, so the challenge of going mirror-free from waking till sleeping seemed like it would be a relatively easy but fabulously introspective exercise.
The past few weeks have been busy and hectic, and there were very few days in which I felt comfortable doing messy hair or going eyebrow-pencil-free. Because my calendar has been filled to the brim with book events and speaking engagements and TV appearances and style consult clients and business meetings. And as someone who works in a style-related field, I just couldn’t handle the pressure of winging it sans mirrors for any of those things. How I look is part of my brand, part of my business. And since my pixie can get really funky if it hasn’t been flat-ironed, and since I can’t apply lip color without looking, and since I really do prefer to make sure my outfit looks polished and appropriate when I’m doing business stuff … I just couldn’t go mirror-free on a day in which I’d be interacting with clients, customers, or the press. My anxiety won out. In fact, the mere thought of heading out to a paid speaking engagement or client meeting without being able to check myself in a mirror makes my heart race a bit.
So my mirror-free day was a day spent at home, working by myself in the company of my cats. I know, total cop-out. I did my hair messy (more or less like this), pulled on a foolproof outfit (this one), and settled in. It was a day of writing, conference calls, and online client correspondence so I was absorbed in my work all day long. I didn’t need to leave the house, so I didn’t.
What I learned:
It is HARD to avoid mirrors
I felt like covering the two mirrors in my home would bring my cheating to a whole new level, so I left them alone. And the main thing I noticed throughout the day was that when I passed a mirror, I wanted to look into it. I turned toward it automatically. That need to assess my looks at every given opportunity was strong to the point of feeling like an instinct. Though I know it is not one.
But engaging my brain makes it easier
As I mentioned above, I can get pretty caught-up in my work – or even in non-work activities like reading or house cleaning/organization projects – and when I do, it never occurs to me to stop and consult the mirror. Unless I am walking by one, I don’t feel compelled to check. I often conflate boredom and hunger, which results in mindless snacking. When I’m not bored – when my brain is fully engaged – I snack a lot less. Mirror use feels similar. I don’t need it, but when I’m feeling at loose ends or even a little bit bored, I’m more likely to do it.
I am terrified of presenting an unchecked appearance in a business situation
Again, mentioned this above but it bears repeating. I hadn’t realized how important it had become for me to be able to monitor my appearance, hadn’t given serious thought to that brand-look connection. I mean, I try my best to look my best whenever I’m doing anything related to my business, but I’d never realized that my schedule makes going a day without mirrors feel impossible. Not be impossible, as I know I certainly could’ve sucked it up and gone to any one of those meetings in an unchecked state without bursting into flames. Doing so would’ve been a fascinating and worthwhile experiment. But what if I showed up for a client meeting looking rumpled? The client’s confidence in my expertise could be damaged, and she might be less likely to recommend me to friends. What if I show up for a reading in a slightly mussed state? Attendees might question my judgment and be less likely to buy my book. Big ifs, possible excuses. But I just couldn’t let go of those potentially damaging possibilities.
I’m still mulling what this means and if I should adjust any behaviors or expectations accordingly. As I said, I often get ready in the morning using a mirror, work all day, and don’t check my reflection until late at night. So I don’t feel like I have an unhealthy relationship with mirrors or an obsession with my own reflection. But I do feel like I’ve begun to equate controlling my appearance with keeping my business afloat. And that equation might need to be tweaked over time.
I may not have any mind-blowing insights to share, but I DO have a copy of Kjerstin’s truly engaging and thought-provoking book – Mirror, Mirror, Off the Wall – to give away to one lucky Already Pretty reader. To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on this post telling us if YOU would be able to do a day without mirrors. Be sure to enter a valid e-mail address into the e-mail field when you comment. (No need to put it in the body of the comment.) I’ll draw a winner on May 17 and notify the winner via e-mail. This contest is open to all readers, including international. Good luck!