Yes, the average adult woman will spend 43.5 minutes looking at her reflection every day according to a study conducted by Betta Living. That’s a lot of time.
This study got me thinking, “What would happen if I took mirrors out of my life?” Not forever, but for a week. What would I learn about the importance of my own physical appearance? I work out to stay fit and healthy and of course to look good, so by taking away the ‘looking element’ would it change how I trained or how I felt as I went about my day?
It seemed fairly simple at first, but then I thought of every other object I use to look at my reflection: cell phone cameras, store windows, puddles, and literally anything made out of metal or glass tempt me to look at my own face, as if I don’t already know what I look like.
I flipped my full-length mirror around to face the wall, placed a pillow case over my cosmetic mirror, and taped paper over the rest of the mirrors in my house.
At work, mirror decals were put up in the bathroom and the ladies’ locker room to help me out and cause a little buzz around the office. Everything else was based on the honor system: window reflections, selfies, Snapchat, everything. Complete disclosure, I did have a few slip-ups throughout the week; it’s only human.
These are the five main epiphanies I had throughout my week of going mirrorless.
1. My Self-Talk Changed
Typically whenever I have a thought of “I feel bloated,” or “I feel tired,” I almost instinctually run over to the mirror to confirm that yes, I look bloated and tired. As if it’s not bad enough that I’m feeling crappy, I need to show myself that I look it, too.
This week, my self-dialog was forced to stop at “I feel…” which was a pretty liberating experience. I couldn’t spend 10 minutes staring at my bloated belly in horror, or lamenting over the bags under my eyes. This week, my looks weren’t the focus; my self-talk started and ended with “I feel.”
2. There aren’t nearly enough mirror-free workout venues
Spin class? No, there are mirrors everywhere. Yoga? Nope. Weight room? Forget it. Fortunately, Reebok has a CrossFit box on campus, which is a mirror-free zone, so my fitness regime consisted of CrossFit and running outside.
I understand that mirrors are useful when checking your form while working out, but let’s be honest: mirrors in spin studios and weight rooms are predominantly used for vanity. Whether it’s the meat head who casually lifts up his shirt to wipe his sweat when really he’s checking out his six pack, or someone like me who just likes looking at herself out of habit.
3. People are awesome
Prior to starting this experience, I thought of everything I normally do in front of a mirror: putting on make-up, brushing my teeth, checking my smile for left-over lunch, doing my hair… the list goes on. Going into the mirror-free week, I set my standards incredibly low for make-up and hair. I contemplated giving myself a pass to look like a disaster for a week, but the competitor in me wanted the challenge.
The first day, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy everyday tasks are without a mirror; I just needed to ask for help. Make-up certainly took a lot of focus and some extra time. I tried my best, asked women I work with for feedback, having them touch up any areas I missed. Likewise, after lunch, I asked my co-workers if I had any lettuce in my teeth.
At first it was a bit uncomfortable asking for help on something that I normally handle on my own, but a little vulnerability never hurt anyone. Vulnerability makes us human, and it’s in these moments that I felt my best during the week.
Whenever I asked for help or explained the no mirrors project, people had the kindest things to say.
“You look beautiful, Sara,” said my roommate.
“You don’t look like you haven’t been using a mirror. You look fresh-faced!” said my co-worker when I asked her to touch up my make-up.
“Through our eyes, you look great,” said another co-worker who I’d never spoken to before.
4. It’s actually impossible to avoid your reflection 100% of the time
I have some fessing up to do. I saw my reflection a few times throughout the week. I didn’t mean to, I promise! I caught myself glancing in the glass doors of the conferences rooms at work, storefront windows, and even shiny countertops. Although these vague glimpses weren’t nearly sharp enough to compare to a mirror reflection, the number of times we see our reflection while going through our days on autopilot is noteworthy.
5. Mirrors aren’t all bad
Sure, I wasn’t able to say to myself, “God, I look like crap today,” but I also wasn’t able to look at myself and think, “Dang, girl! I look great today!” It’s nice to remove the negative comments, but I missed those positive moments. Maybe the mirror isn’t the superficial enemy; maybe our self-talk is the issue.
I made it through a whole week without mirrors and the world didn’t implode. In fact, going mirrorless was a very positive experience. Following my experiment, I still use mirrors, but I’m much more conscious of when and why I use them.