There’s a good chance you’ve already looked in the mirror today. There’s an even better chance that you’ve actually looked several times. There’s also a pretty good chance that none of those times were to really, well, do anything.
Reflections on reflection
So many of us find ourselves subconsciously checking in the mirror multiple times a day. For the most part, when we’re grazing the mirror, we aren’t doing anything substantial. We’re inspecting our pores, we’re trying to figure out when that new wrinkle showed up, or we’re spitefully wishing away our eye-bags.
More often than not, we aren’t being very nice to ourselves.
A few of us in the office started talking about this one day, and thought it would be interesting to unpack what exactly is going on here. Is any of this really necessary? How would it feel to ditch these hourly and daily check-ins completely? Would it change the relationship we have with ourselves, the way we talk to ourselves?
The challenge: A Mirror-Free Week
We wanted to explore this relationship to our reflection through doing an elimination diet of sorts.
Our Design & Brand Manager, Chandra Oh, volunteered as tribute to take on a mirror-free week challenge, and record her thoughts along the way. Here’s what she learned throughout her week.
Featured above is our very own Design & Brand manager, Chandra
Excerpts from Chandra's Mirror-Free Diaries
The rules: One week without the use of the mirror, camera, or any reflective surface at all. That means no selfies, car windows, etc.
The first day not looking into the mirror was easy in the sense that I was ready to start the challenge. I was a lot more conscious and vigilant about not looking at my own reflection.
I woke up, stepped into the bathroom with my eyes closed (since my mirrors are mount up) and got ready for the day. Brushed my teeth, washed my face, put on my facial oil, and spritzed some toning mist. All I could think about was how silly I felt closing my eyes doing something that's just naturally a part of my morning routine.
As I went about my day, I noticed how many surfaces are reflective. I almost felt guilty if I accidentally caught my reflection, because I felt like I “failed” the challenge. For example, when heading into my workspace, I already saw a bit of myself, as the door has a large glass panel.
At first, I didn't even realize I saw myself, until I was opening the door and recognized that the surface is reflective. Because it was an accident, I forgave myself, simply carried on and continued with my day.
After work, I like to chill on the couch, throw on a podcast, and mindlessly scroll through instagram. One thing that really stuck out to me was that when you can’t look at yourself and you browse social media, it begins to feel a lot more voyeuristic, because you have a lot more access to peek at someone else's face, body, and life, while you can't look at your own.
The Little things
Random, but I want to check my teeth to see if I have anything in them. A mirror would be extremely useful right now… Glad I get to work from home so in case I do have something, I won't need to be embarrassed about it…
Also I can't take selfies. lol.
Went a few times without turning on my video for video calls so that I can't catch a glimpse of myself. However, this really takes away from the one aspect that makes remote life more intimate.
Turned video back on for meetings only for the sake of bringing back the human quality you miss out on in virtual interactions.
Tuning into self care
The next few days, it was easy to shield my eyes in the mornings, since I began to associate my morning routine with a reminder to not look in the mirror. When I started this challenge, I felt odd not being able to see my teeth while brushing them, or looking at where I was applying my skin care.
But as the days progressed, I feel as though not being able to see myself allowed me to enjoy these processes a bit more, as if my other senses got amplified because one was subdued.
One large benefit I experienced was recognizing this moment of self-care when applying my facial products. I could feel the oils seep into my skin that much more and the smells were that much more vibrant.
Form and introspection
I noticed the other areas of my life in which not being able to look at myself affected me, both positively and negatively. For one, I had a hard time working out.
As a stickler for form, I like to make sure I'm performing the movements correctly by checking myself in the mirror—but for this week, I was unable to. I, of course, finished my work out, but didn't feel as satisfied. It made me recognize that though mirrors are often associated with vanity, they are also great tools for self-awareness.
So, since I didn't enjoy my weight lifting workout, I chose to practice yoga and meditation instead for the duration of the week. While practicing yoga, I found myself closing my eyes a lot more, since I got so used to doing this to dodge mirrors and reflective surfaces in the home. Closing my eyes really made the yoga practice so much more intimate. I felt really in tune with myself, despite detaching me from my physical self.
There was one day where I was doing a more restorative sequence and I started crying. Out of nowhere, tears were streaming down my face and it felt so refreshing to just let out this energy.
I've never cried doing yoga, but I wonder if this mirror-free week was a catalyst for this occurrence, as I was encouraged to dive even deeper into my own introspection and allow myself the space to be vulnerable without judgment.
Breaking the rules
I did end up cheating and looking at myself in the mirror for one of the days throughout the week. My boyfriend and I planned a date night and I wanted to dress up for dinner. At first, I tried on outfits without indulging in taking a peek, but I didn't feel as confident not knowing what I looked like.
At first, I thought to myself, “Chandra, get over it. It's just one day, one dinner, who cares what you look like.” I guilt-tripped myself for caring, but then really thought about why it was bothering me.
For me, I love being able to express myself through my style. I find confidence when I capture the vibe I'm going for and present it in the way that feels authentic to me. Sometimes, that means having to look back at yourself and check to see that what you're imagining is what you're actually producing.
So yes, I caved. I looked at the mirror and changed my outfit until I found the one that made me feel awesome.
What I Learned From Not Looking in the Mirror for a Week
It felt good to take a break from mirror-usage; the slight inconveniences that popped up during the week were completely outweighed by my awesome moment of feeling light and open from my yoga sesh, that I don't think would've happened had I not taken a break from the mirror.
There are so many moments in life where you look at yourself without noticing. When you partake in a challenge of this nature, you realize how often you do look at yourself. Flossing, brushing your teeth, facetiming, getting ready, working out, and so much more.
Too much mirror-time can get you in the habit of becoming overly-critical. Perhaps even judgmental to your own self. But conversely, too little mirror-time can take away from your opportunity to refine and hone.
Everything in life requires balance. You don’t have to cut out the mirror entirely, but bringing some heightened self-awareness into this part of your life can help you to take pause, be mindful, and connect with yourself.