Let’s face it. Many women struggle with vanity in our appearance-obsessed culture. My mother often said about me, “she’s never seen a mirror she didn’t like.” Whether headed to a date or on my way to work, I’ve been known to glance at my reflection in car windows, store windows, subway platform doors, my own iPhone and more to see how my new hairstyle, eyeshadow or lipstick is holding up. I’ve never seen it as a huge issue that deserved rehabilitation and reform, but a lot of women do.
Kate Murphy recently wrote a piece for The New York Times about mirror fasts, an increasingly popular method some female bloggers are using to confront narcissism. Murphy interviewed Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, a blogger who went on two monthlong mirror fasts:
“It gave me a lot of serenity,’ she said. ‘I was surprised at how quickly I stopped worrying about how I looked and if I wasn’t thinking about it, I assumed no one else was either, which is actually true.”
Another proponent of mirror fasting, Marisa Gizzio, told Murphy the process helped her self image, because she didn’t have the opportunity to criticize what she didn’t love about her body in the mirror:
“Any reflection, even in the sliding glass doors at the grocery store, I would automatically check if my butt was sticking out or my legs were too big. It was such a waste of time.’ Ms. Gizzio had started to regain some of the 60 pounds she lost the previous year because when she looked in the mirror, she said, ‘I still had that fat girl looking back at me, so I’d just throw up my hands and think, what’s the use?’ The mirror fast helped arrest her self-destructive mind-set. ‘It was like damage control,’ she said. ‘I needed to wipe the slate clean and start thinking about what I liked about myself, which made me feel more confident so I wanted to eat better and I wanted to exercise.”
While an extended mirror fast may be too extreme for me, I do wonder how constantly obsessing over and criticizing my reflection impacts my self image and if looking in the mirror less, or not at all, could be cathartic for me.