Silke Weil challenges her confidence in her appearance by ditching mirrors for a week
From a quick glance to make sure all's in order, to spending lengthy sessions staring at our reflections as we apply makeup or do our hair, for most of us, a mirror is part of our daily routine. Some of us are obsessed with our appearance and spend hours getting ready, always looking in a mirror and even carrying a pocket-sized one around with us. But this week, I took down the mirror in my room and avoided looking at my reflection in the bathroom. This meant no doing my makeup and hoping my hair would just decide to co-operate post-shower. What impact might ditching a mirror for a week have on my confidence and the tendency to seek validation through appearance?
Mirrors have fascinated people for centuries. While glass mirrors are most common today, they used to be made from a variety of materials in ancient times including copper, steel, silver and gold.
Ancient Egyptians were often depicted with handheld mirrors made from metal, the hall of mirrors at Versailles was built between 1678 and 1684 at a time when mirrored glass was extremely expensive and a symbol of wealth. It proved the French could rival the Venetian monopoly on mirror manufacturing at a time when they were a great luxury.
Mirrors became more common after being endorsed by the bourgeoisie in publications. Eventually they reached middle and lower classes. An increase in production and distribution, along with social influence, made mirrors more accessible over time.
In our modern world, mirrors are everywhere - in cars, almost every bathroom you use - even your phone screen reflects your image.
Most recently, mirror therapy is being experimented with in medicine. Specifically for stroke treatments, mirrors are being used to create reflected images of patients' limbs or other body parts to help trick the brain into healing itself and improving movement.
A 2017 study by Groupon in the US revealed American women spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars on their appearance over the course of their lifetime. More than a quarter of that spending is focused on the face, far more than any other part of the body.
In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers observed people in a room with a mirror were less likely to judge others based on social stereotypes, for example, sex and race. Subjects tested in a room with a mirror were found to work harder, be more helpful and were less inclined to cheat compared to groups in the same settings without a mirror.
On day one I showed up to work on time - I wasn't held up doing my hair and makeup. Not being late put me in a great mood for the work day. When it turned out my headband matched my colleague's, she wanted to take a selfie. I refused. I wasn't wearing makeup, I didn't want to be seen. The only reason I wore that headband was to hide stray hairs. I thought people would comment on how awful I looked - this wasn't the case. On the first day I was concerned about my face potentially being puffy and my roots looking greasy. By the end of the week, I didn't care. I realised, humblingly, it didn't matter and no one said anything.
Beyond hair and makeup, I'm the kind of person who doesn't care what people think of how I dress. The outfits I throw on don't really go together, and the colours often clash. If anything, not having this pointed out by a mirror empowered me to be even more bold with my style choices.
This experience saved me time and helped my skin. It was liberating being able to rub my eyes and not worry about ending up with smudges on my hands or face. Now I know I don't need to spend time in front of the mirror in the morning, I'm going to continue not to do so. I realised people didn't even know or care that I wasn't wearing makeup. Ultimately, it made me feel more confident in myself and my natural appearance. I'm looking forward to saving a bit of money in the makeup department too.