Week without mirror promotes self-empowerment

Week without mirror promotes self-empowerment

Lizzie Garvey, asst. opinions editor

Summer camp — a time where you can meet new friends, bond with old ones, and not care less about what you look like. After spending two weeks in Wisconsin with some of my closest friends over the summer, I had only looked at myself in the mirror once, and I’m pretty positive it was unintentional. Curious as to why any concern regarding my appearance was almost nonexistent then versus totally apparent now, I recently decided to challenge myself by not looking at my reflection for one school week.

For something that seems so simple, it was extremely difficult; the number of times I caught myself subconsciously looking at myself in a display case at school, in the black screen of my phone, or in car windows in the parking lot was pretty eye-opening. It’s hard to realize how many times you look at your reflection in one day until you’re not allowed to anymore, and it shocked me how much I do it on a daily basis.

The thing is, this isn’t vanity. It seems as if it’s a part of human nature to care about your appearance, whether it be for yourself or others’ perception of you. In most people’s minds, including mine, there’s an inherent tie between looking good and being well-liked by other people. At camp, I didn’t have to worry about that association; I was already close with everyone there and not worried about making an impression or seeming ‘likeable’ to people I didn’t know too well.  The norm was to look however you wanted, because there, people already loved you for your personality no matter how you chose (or didn’t choose) to present yourself.

What distinguishes South from Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, is that here it’s tough not to interact with people you don’t know and feel like someone you don’t know too well is judging you based on your appearance (especially if you can’t see what you look like).

The challenge didn’t make me care less about my appearance like expected — I idealistically thought I was going to embrace it, own what I thought I looked like, and learn some lessons about unconditional self-love (or whatever the Cosmo articles always preach) — but honestly it just made me care a whole lot more. Rather than forgetting to be self-conscious, as the writers of articles such as “7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Look in the Mirror Every Day” promised, my insecurities were far from forgotten throughout the week. While I rationally knew that people probably didn’t notice a change in my appearance, it was almost impossible to shake that feeling that I had something on my face or that my hair looked off and that others were criticizing me for it.

It’s not vain or shallow. It’s ingrained into our minds since preschool that looks = likeability = success, and it can be tough to realize exactly how hard it is to shake until you find yourself subconsciously searching for your reflection in passing windows.

Honestly, I was a little disappointed when I didn’t experience a groundbreaking revelation that other people’s opinions don’t matter to me or that my appearance doesn’t define me — those are attitudes that take a lot of self-reflection to cultivate.

I gathered, however, that it’s important to look at yourself and not be ashamed of it; you shouldn’t feel obsessive for wanting to know what you look like in a society that revolves so heavily around appearance.

It can be more than just reassuring to look at your own face every once in awhile. Taking time to really appreciate your reflection as well as the person behind it is a pretty empowering experience.  I’ve heard from a lot of people that self-love comes from not caring about what you look like, but I’m a firm believer that it also comes from admiring yourself and loving what you look like.

Want to run into the school bathroom to check if your hair’s looking normal? You just want to feel more confident in how you’re presenting yourself, and that’s more than okay. Want to admire your outfit in your floor-length mirror because you’re feeling yourself? It shouldn’t make you feel shallow. It should make you feel bada**. After all, if garnering confidence is what self love’s about, why wouldn’t looking in the mirror be a great way to practice it?