Could I stop looking at my reflection for three whole days One woman tries the new craze of 'mirror fasting'
22:07 GMT, 8 September 2012
Women look in the mirror about 38 times a day, according to a recent study published in the journal Behaviour Research And Therapy. This isn’t me at all.
These are ladies who check their nails, make-up and hair obsessively instead of focusing on work or other activities. At best, I tend to look dishevelled. I am a person who, people say, ‘scrubs up well’ – and they often look surprised when I do.
So when I was asked to try the latest craze sweeping the blogosphere, mirror fasting – that’s going for days on end without checking one’s reflection in a bid to boost self-esteem – I wasn’t too bothered. My first thought was: surely I can still scrub up without a mirror
Before: Emma Parker Bowles before she began her mirror fasting
Blogger Autumn Whitefield-Marino says she started mirror fasting because she ‘was concerned with how often I was thinking about my appearance’. It’s a concern I don’t share.
At the age of 38, with an established career as a motoring correspondent, I think I have a healthy relationship with my appearance – and I have enough confidence to know that even if I’m not looking my best, I can rely on my personality to carry me through.
Like most women, I try to look presentable, which means I love beauty products. But I really didn’t think going for three days without looking in the mirror was going to be a problem. So it was with some surprise that I almost fell at the first hurdle: my fake-tan addiction.
When I entered the bathroom on Wednesday to apply it, I realised instantly that I need mirrors more than I thought. The sensible thing to do would have been not to even attempt to put it on without looking, but the idea of leaving my visage au naturel filled me with such horror that I slapped it on anyway. In California, where I live, pale implies nothing less than a near-fatal illness.
Quickly, I realised how much my
morning routine relies on looking in the mirror, and how reassuring I
usually find it. In the shower, I like looking in the mirror to see
where my shampoo and conditioner is going. I like watching myself brush
my teeth – it feels strange to be staring at a towel instead. Stripped
of my comforting little rituals, I left the house feeling
practice, avoiding mirrors is difficult. The first thing I did when I
got in the car was to look in the rearview mirror. As most women will
know, it is the best place to monitor the state of stray eyebrow hairs
and any looming spots.
the end I had to completely flip it and resort to whipping my head round
like an owl whenever I wanted to do a manoeuvre. It was exhausting.
blogger said mirror fasting gave her a sense of ‘serenity and
liberation’. It made me feel neurotic. At home, where there were no
surprises, it was much safer.
After: Emma said whet she really learned was that getting ready for an evening out without looking in the mirror is all but fun
Julia, my American housemate, admitted that she was missing looking in the full-length mirror in our hall, which I had covered with a sheet as though I was a Jew practising Shiva – although the Jewish faith makes allowances for the occasional appearance check during mourning.
Julia and I discussed our different relationships with the mirror. She thinks that American girls are encouraged to be vain. The British are more inclined to be brought up to see any perceived vanity as a serious character flaw – and veer towards being harder on ourselves, which can lead to low self-esteem.
But avoiding the mirror had led to a far deeper level of contemplation than I expected, which also led to far more anxiety. Paranoid that my eyebrows had grown out of control in the couple of days since I last checked them, I took the tweezers and plucked randomly. Without being able to check for spots or other blemishes, I found myself touching my face far more than usual.
I also wondered if men would find mirror fasting easier. Apparently they look at themselves about 18 times a day.
As I checked in online with other females who had been through this experiment, I read about blogger Kerstin Gruys, who claimed to have mirror fasted for 12 months. What Did she lock herself in a basement
It isn’t just that on a practical level it’s nigh-on impossible. I also think it would be psychologically damaging if I recoiled in horror every time I inadvertently caught sight of my reflection.
This is not a good association to have with a reflective surface.
I knew the real challenge would be the night out I’d planned on the third day of the fast. I don’t wear a lot of make-up, but there is something about the ritual of preparing myself that I like. I think it’s like our ancestors applying their war paint before a ceremony.
And what had I really learned Getting ready to go out without looking in the mirror just isn’t fun. I tried, I really did. Then I just thought, sod it, and I ripped the sheet off my full-length mirror.