Appearance, part 9: mirrors and interaction

I’m rarely reacting to other people’s actual appraisal of me. I’m not even reacting to my interpretation of their appraisal. I’m reacting to my appraisal of myself, using perfect strangers as my proxy.

After writing part 6 of this series, where I mentioned the idea of not looking in the mirror for a month, I found two blogs written by women who did no-mirror experiments. The quote above is from Autumn, who spent a month without mirrors, and the ideas she writes about in that post are also discussed by Kjerstin, who skipped mirrors for a whole year (and wrote a book about it). In her post on sociology and mirrors, she writes: “interactions with people inform how we will view ourselves in a mirror and the mirror, in turn, informs how we understand our interactions with other people”.

I definitely relate to this. Mirrors are a huge part of how I get by socially—I use them to make a judgment of myself, and then I assume everyone around me is making that same judgment. When I imagine not looking in a mirror before going out, I picture being filled with anxiety over not knowing how to interpret people’s looks or interactions with me. Autumn writes (in the same post linked above) of seeing a stranger looking at her on the subway during her project, “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.” Continue reading