Month Without Mirrors

I abstained from looking at my reflection for the month of May 2011, and again for a month in 2012. The goal was to loosen the grip that self-consciousness has had on me for much of my life—that happened, to a degree, but what I discovered during my month without mirrors was the way in which I use mirrors to manage other facets of my life. You can read my reflections (get it?!) throughout the experiment here, read the conclusion here, or just check out the following individual entries:

Mirror Me, Annika Connor


The reason behind the project: "Sometimes I look in the mirror and see myself, or whatever I understand myself to be. Other times, I distinctly see an image of myself."

Week 1: My mirror shroud, and what it's like to go to the gym without looking in the mirror. 

What the mirror fast taught me about how I regard strangers: "Not feeling like I had an accurate reading of whether that fellow was looking at me with approval, disdain, lust, curiosity, attraction, or repulsion left me feeling adrift. I had no anchor to hold onto, no private feeling of, 'Well, I do look nice today' or 'I wish he would stop staring at the enormous pimple on my chin.' Without having any idea what he might be seeing, I had no idea how I should feel about him looking at me."

Why looking into the mirror actually require no mirrors at all: "I turned the box on its side to look at the nutritional information, then withdrew my hand from the box as though it were a hot iron. Because I'm not supposed to be looking in mirrors."

News flash, ladies! You don't always have to look pretty: "Letting go of the imaginary control the mirror gives forces me to lift the controls I believed I have over my physical allure. I thought I always had to look pretty because I thought it was something that was within my control, when it isn't. Clean, groomed, and reasonable, yes. Beyond that? It's up to you, not me."

On vacation with no idea what I looked like: "I felt present, and quiet, existing in the eyes of someone I care for, and he existing in mine. I did not feel beautiful. It did not matter."

What it's like to shop for clothes when you can't look at yourself: "'You can always ask what we think,' said the salesperson, and smiled. 'It's what we're here for.'"

What the etymology of the word mirror teaches us about our relationship with our reflection.

 • A Month Without Mirrors, Day 31: "What I didn’t realize until I was unburdened from some of my self-imposed (and likely invented) expectations was exactly how much of my energy was going into appearing. Appearing to be interested, appearing to be womanly, appearing to be a professional lady, appearing to be pretty. No wonder I'm exhausted."


Mirror fasting, take two: In what I intend to make an annual ritual for myself, I embarked on another monthlong mirror fast in 2012. (This also earned me a short segment on the Today show.) My hope was to recapture the sense of serenity I felt during my first go-round. The result couldn't have been farther from the truth: "This time around going mirror-free was excruciating. Instead of feeling gently 'unmoored,' I felt like the ground had been snatched out from underneath me. I found it difficult to focus on conversation; for that matter, I began to find it difficult to look people in the eye. The playful curiosity I felt last time about how I looked was replaced by a certainty that I looked horrible. The mirror, as it turned out, had been crucial to me during the previous difficult months, doling out assurance along with bouts of anxiety."

20 comments:

  1. What a wonderful concept. I am working on self identity in my work and what mentioned above gave me very good connection . www.design4fantsy.com

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  2. Hi Saya--Thank you for reading! I definitely see the elements of identity and reflection in your work--the women with the whited-out faces, the pieces that explore your Persian identity. Fascinating stuff! Glad to have helped in my small way.

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  3. I gutted my bathroom 2 years ago. I have since completed rebuilding it - minus a mirror and a scale. I don't miss either.

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  4. Just read your article about not looking in the mirror in Whole Living. I recently gave up my Facebook account and felt a similar freeing experience. How often do my kids say something, or I travel somewhere, or accomplish something and first think- "oh, I should facebook that!"- yikes! If I wasn't distracted by what everyone else is doing on FB or how I looked every time I saw myself in the mirror.... Would I live differently? Yes!!! I am not the sum of my FB posts or what the mirror reflects when I make my "make-up face" as my husband calls it. My life is full and rich and wonderful until FB or the mirror taunts me with lies.

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    1. TeamBanks, glad you found me! There's definitely a mirror-social media connection, with each functioning as a measure and encouragement of self-consciousness. I actually felt during my mirror fast much like I have when I've taken social media breaks. In any case, I love your self-realization here!

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  5. As a wedding film maker and part time psychotherapist - as well as someone who loves to play dress up and shop - I found these reflections compelling and provocative. Do we have a history of mirror use?

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    1. Thank you! This succinct writeup of the history of mirror use was helpful to me in sort of situating myself within a tradition of mirrors: http://www.mirrorresilvering.com/a_brief_history_of_mirrors.htm

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  6. None of the links work!

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  7. good for you - I'm going to try it as well - month of April. I think I'll still be able to get my mascara on lol

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  8. oooo.... I'm not sure I could do that - I'd have to go makeup free - yikes!

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  9. Hi Autumn,
    it's Angelika (yelapaangel) who told you about the non-reversed TRUE MIRROR..
    I'm just wondering... you never got one, how come?
    Did you go back to looking at your 'normal, reversed' mirror image?
    Thanks for your reply.
    Love Angelika -True Mirror Representative


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  11. I like this concept. I visited your blog for the first time and just been your fan. Keep posting as I am gonna come to read it everyday!! The kind David gallery has a huge collection of mirror work that surely add beauty to your place and keep them safe. we use the fine glass material to make our product better, we work with architects and interior designers to create or serve you better and unique design/environment.

    Mirrors

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