Mirror Mirror Challenge and Giveaway

mirror_rev

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.

 

MMOTW 300DPI

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!

Next Post
Previous Post

  • Carolyn

    A day without mirrors would be fantastic. No need to check how you look, just go with it.

  • thea

    I think I’d find it really hard to not look in the mirror during the work week, as I don’t like to leave the house without makeup and mirror helps with that. On the weekend, it still would feel uncomfortable but for an experiment or for the feeling of freedom…I think I could. It’s the thought that I’m unsure that I actually could that makes me interested in this woman’s book/experience. if I don’t win, will take it out of library

  • Tina

    I thought of the Frasier episode where Frasier visits a Jewish family who is in mourning. Their mirrors are covered in observance of Shiva and one woman had to seek reassurance from Frasier that she looked good. I always wanted to try that. I never considered myself to be too terribly obsessed with my looks so I am curious.

  • Jackie

    I’m a teacher, so I would never leave the house on a school day without checking a mirror–that would definitely be the day my bra was showing or my mascara was all over or something else that would completely undermine me in front of my students. Non-school day? I think I could easily do it–I don’t wear make up on those days, usually wear my hair in a ponytail and could check my outfit myself.

  • Chris

    I would really struggle to go without looking at a mirror. Specifically, I would struggle to not look at my hair as I have a couple of cowlicks that regularly result in very odd lumps on my crown. Like it or not, in a professional environment, crazy hair is not well accepted.

  • Sarah

    Anytime I go camping is a day without mirrors. Who needs ’em with such lovely natural scenery? Makes everything look good!

  • Susan in Boston

    Given what you do, it makes sense that you check the mirror before going in public. But if you want to play with this, you might try “going public” when you know you’ll be seeing people you know–friends and colleagues, clients whom you’ve seen at least once. There’s always the possibility that you’ll encounter someone you weren’t expecting, but there’s the challenge and, I think, a natural expansion/extension of your mission. Nothing is more attractive than confidence, and if you’re wearing that, no one will notice that you forgot your eyebrow pencil. Hell, if your socks don’t match, you might start a fashion trend.

  • Jessica

    I don’t think I could go without a mirror, mainly because I have those kind of teeth that hold on to various food particles (spinach, I’m looking at you!). Every time I eat, I am paranoid that when I smile everyone will see my leftovers!

    • shebolt

      This was exactly my thought!

      Stuff in my teeth, and my fear of VPL, are the two main reasons why I could not abandon the mirror.

  • Cee

    I think I could do it at the weekend: I wear my hair curly and do little to it between washing so that would be ok; I have a few foolproof outfits that I know wouldn’t need adjusting with the help of a mirror; I could wear minimal make up.

    Cutting out the mirror wouldn’t change my self-presentation routine much. But on a workday? I’m not sure I could, and I don’t even work in a field which is dependent (to a certain extent) upon my appearence. I think I’m too scared of look unproffessional, and too young: I work with students and I’m barely older than them, so I feel like I have to distinguish myself so that I don’t get mistaken for a student. And, like you, this experiment is making me question that.

    Just as a sugestion, further to Susan in Boston above: would you be comfortable/happy informing your clients of what you were doing if you were to try this again? Or would that seem odd/unprofessional? Given that your appearence is central to your work, it might seem less contrived that, say, an office worker informing his/her colleagues as [s]he comes into work.

    • Cee and Susan – It might work with a one-on-one client, but only if it were someone who knew me from the blog or with whom I’d already worked. A referral or someone who’d found me through press … I think it’d sound a bit odd. And I just couldn’t do it for something like a speaking engagement or press appearance!

  • Mel

    Interesting experiment. I can see where

    For myself…I hardly ever look in the mirror. I work in an office where there’s not a lot of pressure to look fab, and I’m often mocked for looking too nice. At home, I dress like a homeless person. Notice the dual personalities? lol

    I don’t wear make-up, my hair just does whatever it wants to do anyway. My clothes/jewelry I usually figure out by hanging them on my sewing dressform the night before.

  • Miss T

    Mirrors have been with us for thousands of years, so I think there is a human interest and social need for them. Even toddlers love to see themselves in a mirror. I think a mirror is only a problem when too much is invested in it. Actually, as I look around my house, I see that I have a mirror, or multiple mirrors, in every room. In my bedroom, I have 5 mirrors on the walls, actually. And guess what — I never look in them. Or if I do, it’s only to catch a glimpse of myself as I walk by. But nothing in particular registers as I see myself, I just look, the same way I’d look out a window. I don’t stop and stare at myself. I even have a large mirror in the kitchen, where I can see myself — if I want to — doing dishes. I also have a mirror over the stove that reflects the window behind me as I cook — and my face, if I want to look. The point is, I think, that like most things in life, if you have a lot of something, you eventually take them for granted. So maybe the solution is more mirrors.

  • avani

    when I was younger, up to my early 20s, not looking at mirror for days on end orjust a cursory glance was a norm. but as I entered in my late 20, ( make it 30 plus )I became conscious about style and consequently mirror gazing increased. also earlier I was doing my residency, where no one gave a Damn about appearances. but now I’m doing my own consultancy where looking presentable to inspire client confidence is necessary.
    that said, I’m sure I can manage even a work day with no major changes mirror free. but on days when I have presentations or conferences, it’s a stretch. I know all my outfits well so I can slip in to something comfortable and dressy go with moisturizer and tinted lip balm and earrings and other accessories that you can see without mirror. I don’t know if it’s cheating or not but it would be worth trying.

  • heather

    I think you need to chill out about your appearance. Wear your hair in a style that works with your natural texture, wear makeup that doesn’t need a microscope to apply, have simpler outfits that you know look good (in colors that flatter your skintone so you don’t need a mirror). Think capsule wardrobe.

    When I travel, my hair goes in a braid or bun, I wear bb cream and tinted lip balm and sunglasses, and everything in my suitcase matches. I can easily go all day with no mirror.

    If all else fails, wear a hat or babushka.

  • You look like Anne Hathaway in this shot, Sal!!
    k3

  • D

    I think I would have a very hard time going without a mirror for even a day. I don’t wear makeup most of the time, and my hair isn’t terribly complicated, but it would be a lie if I didn’t say that I would feel the urge to make sure that I look OK anyway. These last couple of weeks have made that clear to me- I don’t have a job right now, my husband is travelling, and some days I just don’t leave my apartment. And I still check that mirror at least once a day.

  • Chris

    Maybe if I looked like Kjerstin, I could do it. Not all of us are as naturally gorgeous as she is. I need plenty of “help” so that my clients don’t run screaming away from me. However, once I do my routine in the morning, I seldom look in the mirror again all day.

  • Sarah

    I really just do not understand the fear of looking “rumpled” at work or during a business meeting. Some days I look rumpled and I honestly don’t give a crap. I live in a city with 100% humidity 5 months out of the year…chances are if I don’t look rumpled, I will probably look sweaty and/or shiny. I have accidentally worn clothing with a hole in the seam to work before, and I didn’t get stoned to death by anyone. Sometimes I have had hair days that no amount of product will fax. Somedays I over sleep and come in with wet hair. Some days I am so busy from the time I walk in to the time I walk out that I don’t even look in a mirror and I realize after work that my hair turned into a giant frizzy fro. And I really do not give a flying fudgsicle about any of it. My bosses know what I am capable of, and I just got a nice raise and a very nice promotion after only one year in my current position, so I really don’t think looking rumpled or sweaty occasionally is a big deal.

    I also really don’t get the deal with showing a little cleavage at work (I can show some cleavage and still do my job, so why should it matter?). And the whole argument about always looking your best, even if you are running to the grocery store after the gym on a Saturday afternoon, because you never know who you might run into? Guess what, we all look like shit some days. If it’s my day off and I see my boss, he better like workout pants and flip flops because I am not wearing a suit to the gym and grocery store *in case* I run into to boss because *gasp* he might realize I am an actual, living, breathing PERSON instead of a robot. I just don’t get it. I feel like we all try so hard to present these PERFECT fronts to everyone and it’s so counterproductive because WE ARE NOT PERFECT! Not only that, but pressure to be perfect and look perfect and act perfect is keeping us from realizing our full potential to change the world for the better. Once I realized that everyone else is just as flawed as me but perhaps better at faking perfection, I just stopped caring.

    All of that being said, I work in a mental health office and Sally, you work in the fashion field. So it’s a whole different ball game, and I can understand why someone in your field would feel the pressure to look perfect. But if you don’t work in fashion or beauty? Nope, just don’t get it!

  • I think for any job, one should look presentable and put together, and I think that requires a reflective surface. I couldn’t go a day w/out a mirror, unless I never left my house or only left to run errands and then came right back. I wear makeup everyday, do my hair everyday and need to check that my outfit is presentable & fashionable, every day. It’s more for my mental health. If I think I look good, I feel good and vice versa. There are times I get ready at my BFs and he only has a bathroom mirror and it’s a problem, so not only do I need a mirror, but a full size mirror.

  • latonya

    I work in retail. I find most customers have the opposite problem; it’s very uncomfortable for them to look at themselves. When and how do we honestly address our poor body image issues?

  • I’m seeing this experiment around the blog-o-sphere a lot and it seems kind of odd to me. I don’t feel like my mirror use is particularly pathological or like I should be concerned about it. It’s reasonable to want to know how you appear to others or if you have spinach in your teeth. On a typical day, I use my mirror to get everything in place in the morning, check to see that everything is still in place if I visit the restroom during the day, and I see my face again at night when I’m brushing teeth and taking out contact lenses. When I see myself in the mirror, unless something hurts and I’m trying to check it out, my inner dialogue is, approximately: “Hey self, still there? Awesome.” and it’s on to the next thing. I like to check in with myself, but I don’t feel like I’m obsessing.

    • I agree, Cynthia. I check my mirror in the morning, while washing hands and in the evening, but it’s never obsessive or negative. I just like to know that things are relatively in place, especially since I sometimes forget buttons or zippers. I’m not sure I understand this day without mirrors project.

      • Hey – thought I’d chime in (I’m Kjerstin, author lady). I like to say that mirrors, themselves, aren’t the problem, but the way many of us use them is problematic. In my case, I was desperate to stop wasting so much time worrying about my appearance, so removing mirrors seemed like a good way to make sure that happened. Also, the average woman looks in the mirror 34-71 times per day! I was definitely in this range – maybe you two are at the much lower end, even outliers? If so – good for you!

  • Marsha

    There’s a world of difference between being obsessed with your appearance and checking yourself occasionally in a mirror. If staring at yourself in the mirror is something that’s too time consuming and interfering with living a normal life, then maybe you need to go cold-turkey. Otherwise, I don’t see what great insights you might get get from going mirror-free.

    There’s a big part of being well-groomed that isn’t self-directed anyway. It is a sign of respect to other people. If you show up sloppy to meet a new client, that client might think that you don’t care whether you get their business or not. If my husband only sees me at my worst, that’s sending a message that he’s not worth cleaning up for. If I go to church in cut-offs and flip-flops (when I have much nicer clothes) I’m indicating that I don’t take my relationship to God seriously.

  • robin mc

    I would struggle to go for a day without checking my appearance in a mirror. I can, and have, gone out in public without makeup or styled hair and have been fine. But I still checked my appearance in a mirror before leaving the house. Like some others have commented, I worry about things like bra straps peeking out or food stuck in my teeth. And I like being able to look into a mirror to help me decide which accessories to wear. I agree with Marsha, there’s a difference between checking occasionally to be well-groomed (which shows respect for yourself and others) and being obsessed with your appearance.

  • Kristin

    It would be hard to avoid mirrors on a day where I actually have to go out, because my hair, once a certain length, is bad to have weird curls, waves, and flip outward on one side while the other side is more-or-less stick straight and it drives me bananas. On days where I don’t have to go anywhere, I could probably avoid the mirror since I’m usually home alone and more inclined to just let my hair air-dry however it sees fit.

  • Lindsay

    I don’t think I could do it on a work day, as my office building is mirror-filled…reflective elevator walls, mirrored halls when you get off the elevator, one of the bathroom walls is fully mirrored, AND the wall right next to my desk is mirrored. I’d have to stare at my feet all day! But now, I am going to try to do a weekend without mirrors this weekend, and see how it feels. I often leave love notes on the mirror for my boyfriend, and he won’t discover them until half the day has passed, since he rarely looks in the mirror unless he has somewhere to go or has to shave. I kind of envy that! 🙂

  • Elizabeth Reeves

    I work from home. So, there is usually no reason for me to look decent. LOL! However, it would still be somewhat difficult to go a day without a mirror.

  • Hannah

    I think I’d be able to go without mirrors. I don’t wear a lot of makeup and I’m fine going without it for a day, and I can figure out my hair without a mirror too. I think it’s a combination of habit and an attraction to the sudden motion of my reflection that makes me look in the mirror.

  • Darci

    I work with the public in retail sales, so I see myself in mirrors most of days. For the most part, I forget to check the mirror. Otherwise seeing myself in Tue mirrors usually reminds me to stand up straight and drop my shoulders back.

  • I once went to a Buddhist friend’s house and was startled to find there was no mirror in the bathroom. It definitely got me thinking about our assumption that we need to check our appearance throughout the day.

  • Stacie

    I would have a VERY hard time going 1 day without looking in a mirror. I’d constantly want to check my hair…and without a mirror, I’d have to go without makeup too! I’d love to do it, but I don’t know if I could!

  • I’ve always had this curiosity and fascination with my appearance. Maybe it’s just plain narcissism, but I was about five when my grandmother bought me my own full-length mirror after constantly sitting in front of hers staring at myself. I’m a little less obsessed with my own reflection nowadays, but I would still find it extremely hard not to sneak a peek. I find myself turning to glass doors, mirrors, anything in which I can see my reflection. I feel the same as you about wanting to check my appearance for business situations, but I would be willing to give the experiment a try during the weekend. Very interesting!!

    Cassie

  • Stephanie

    I think it would be a challenge, but if I tied my hair back it’d be doable! I like knowing where my part is otherwise– it can make some interesting zig-zags if I leave it alone too long. 🙂

  • I think I could do it; it might actually be kind of nice. But really I couldn’t because the house that I live in features an enormous mirror over the bathroom sink and a truly gigantic floor to ceiling mirror straight on from the front door. The office that I work at has massive mirrors in the bathrooms too. Covering the builders grade mirror would be tricky, maybe I could just wear a blindfold in the bathroom – that would go well.

  • Tina from Australia

    I’d happily go for days without looking in a mirror. However I don’t wear makeup nor do any styling of my hair.

  • Dona

    If anything, I need to look in a mirror more often. This really hit home. I’ve been taking selfies all week, after I get to work. Then, at the end of the day, writing how my day was/how I feel. The days I put the most into my appearance are my best days. I usually choose sleep over appearance. I’m definitely going to be changing my priorities.

  • Sulenka

    I visited my daughter at college and bought her a big (not full-length, but big) mirror to replace one that a roommate had taken away when she left. When I saw myself in that mirror, I was distraught and wondered what the several mirrors in my own home were “not” showing me. I spent a week whining to myself, totally avoiding mirrors, and finally realized that it was just being in the company of these 18-22-year-olds that was the problem. At 47, I don’t look like them, nor should I strive to. At home, I am lovely and curvy and adorable and creative and beloved. (And I WON’T be buying that particular mirror from T****t anytime soon….;)

    • Chris

      Sulenka,

      You have my sympathy!

      Personally, I didn’t look like the good looking 18-22 year olds when I was 18-22. I still haven’t decided if it’s worse to have once “had it” and lost it or to never have “had it”. Maybe I’m better off than many? I never was good looking so I don’t have the sense of losing something.

  • tess

    who gives a care what I look like

  • WA_side

    I think I know my wardrobe well enough that I could put together an outfit that wouldn’t require me to check the mirror, however I would still want to! I rarely wear makeup, and styling my hair is “comb, part and comb again” so again I wouldn’t have to, but would still want to. I think in part it is being concerned with what people may think, but also about whether I match up to my own expectations too. Since our own requirements for ourself can sometimes be harsher than they would for someone else, I can see the value in challenging that auto check-in, even if it isn’t something we do more than a few times a day. Perhaps it is about “see me as I am, not just as I want to be”? I wonder also about the trust we hold for other people, if we feel no-one would quietly let us know if something was seriously out of place, rather than just “lacking perfection”.

    I think I could manage a day, but that it would challenge me. I think a week would probably give a little more insight into how my vision of myself relates to how I interact with the world around me. I doubt I could go without for a year though, so kudos to those who really challenge themselves in this way, and I’d certainly be interested in reading Kjerstin’s thoughts.

  • Kirsten

    Echoing other comments: Sure for a weekend, when I’m pulling my short hair under a bandana it headband. Not so much on the weekdays, as I work in a professional environment and blow dry/style the growing-out hair!

    What I’m surprised no one else has raised: what about guys? Is this concept that we must look perfect – or everything is sunk/colleagues won’t respect you/undermines you in front of students – another gender-based expectation?

    I think my DH could easily go days without a mirror, if he didn’t have to shave…

    • Indeed! Kjerstin’s work is specific to the self-image issues that women grapple with, but it would certainly be interesting to ask men how they’d feel about doing a day (or more) mirror-free.

  • kaybug

    Never. I could never go an entire week without a mirror.

    I am an office professional in a largely male field and a single sports mom. I am out with people a lot, and I refuse to look less than put together in any arena, even the grocery store. There are so many comfortable options that are not schlumpy!

    …that being said….

    I have worked hard to love what I see in the mirror. I mean really LOVE, including the blemishes, the wrinkles, scars and veins; the jiggle, the gray, the non-supermodel or blonde actress typical.

    To me, it’s a projection of my personal respect, authority and attractiveness to dress and look well. And that will always take a full-length mirror.

    (xoxo Sally!)

  • Kim

    I don’t wear makeup and I work in a science lab (casual environment), so I think it wouldn’t be a big deal to go without a mirror for a day. But I’ve never done it, I always instinctively check. It would be interesting to see how much not-checking would make me uncomfortable.

  • jen

    I’m one of those unfortunate women who tends to sprout the occasional dark wiry unruly chin hair with virtually no warning. That tendency alone makes me think those of you willing to give up mirrors must grow very fair light hair. Lucky!

  • Christine

    Really, if I am being perfectly, 100% honest with myself, I do not think I could go a day without a mirror. Just thinking of all the skincare I smear on in the mornings, to brushing my teeth….. Not even considering the rest of the day. Wow. Even the thought-experiment is thought provoking!