Avoiding Mirrors for 31 Years: Making Peace With My Reflection

When I was little, I developed a strong distaste for mirrors. I would love to say this was a severe phobia, but I’m not committed enough to have a phobia. Whether they were dressing room mirrors, my home hallway mirror or my cosmetics compacts, I just hated them all and have managed to spend 31 years avoiding looking into them. I’m not sharing this to be self-deprecating, because that’s not me. This is more to share that I just put little value into what my reflection was supposed to tell me.

I grew up with a stunning mother with beautiful, flawless skin all packaged in her petite 5’2″ frame, and was often confused for her little sister. I don’t look like my mom – well, at least I don’t see it. I also grew up in LA, where everyone is probably more attractive than most of the world, and I just didn’t feel the same. I’m 5’7″, curvy (FYI, I hate the word curvy), I have more freckles on my face that I would like and a million other things I could list in detail positively and negatively about myself. But I just don’t feel like it.

I want to be clear that I’m not saying this for people to feel bad for me or to even shower me with compliments (if you choose to I CAN’T STOP YOU) – I would much rather someone say that I have perfect bangs than have to get a compliment that really just showcases the other person’s values and the importance of beauty. That’s what a compliment is to me. It’s just someone’s version of things. But from a young age, I sensed that if I looked in the mirror, I wouldn’t get the reaction I wanted, and that was to look like everyone else. So, I decided people who looked into the mirror constantly or people that even developed good “mirror faces” were just vain and frankly, I judged them. I would see all my girlfriends spend hours on hair and makeup and I would pride myself on just jumping out of the shower and throwing myself into sweats and high ponytail. And although Drake did make women feel sexy with his lyrics (“sweat pants, hair tied/chilling with no makeup on/ that’s when you’re the prettiest”), it’s not always the case.

You know why? Because sometimes taking care of you isn’t for others, it’s for yourself. Over the years I would hint to my therapist or friends about my theory on why mirrors were bad. I was sure people would agree with me, but I was almost always met with sad eyes. People felt bad for me!!! They immediately felt like this was a severe case of low self-esteem, and honestly, I wasn’t sure they were wrong, but I wasn’t sure they were right, either. Maybe, I just don’t care how I look. Isn’t that okay? I would rather care about feelings. Or maybe I’m just above human nature and everyone needs to catch up?

Either way, when a trained professional you love suggests you try an experiment, it can’t hurt to try. I was under good care. I told no one my little secret and every morning and evening for six weeks I had to look at myself in the mirror for three to four minutes straight and try and not judge myself. Now, I wish I could properly tell you how sad it made me at first to see how hard I was on myself and didn’t even know it. I don’t think I have felt a greater loss ever before than the loss I felt growing out of my bad habits. I thought I had my pitch down: “Looking in the mirror is useless. I don’t need to focus on my looks. I HAVE MY GLOWING PERSONALITY.“ But the first week was devastating. I couldn’t even look at myself in the eye. I was used to avoiding eye contact with others, but with yourself, it’s a whole other level of pain.

Every day it would get easier, but I would try and tell myself things that would make it easier. I remember one time thinking, “Hey, I think I look cute today…?” – posing it as a question and not a fact. And then moments later being convinced I was turning into an egomaniac and needed to be calmed down. By the end of the six weeks, I was more comfortable with myself. And this might not make sense, but I felt like I gained a new friend. I never knew what I looked like; I don’t think I had ever taken in any of my features before. I had never really looked at myself or any image of myself with open eyes, but more importantly, an open heart. Now, months later, I have found a balance and mirrors are now my friend. Not my BFF because I just don’t think I’ll ever be ready for that, but the kind of friend I don’t mind catching up with morning and night. Guys, I now take tons of “selfies” and don’t even think it’s weird!

Featured image via ShutterStock

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