ROSIE GREEN reflects on whether we're happier NOT seeing how we look
A week without MIRRORS? She cracked after 4 days. As a Dior boss says she does not have them, ROSIE GREEN reflects on whether we’re happier NOT seeing how we look
- Dior’s creative director only has one mirror in her house – behind bathroom door
- Rosie Green decided to go mirror-free for a week to see how it affects mood
- For final few days, she allowed herself to use mirror for 1 make-up session a day
- Said she thinks less about her appearance and about ageing after the week
When you look in the mirror, does it suck away your self-esteem or give you a boost?
And is there a tipping point when it becomes less about reassurance and function — sorting out bits in teeth, a cowlick that needs flattening — and more of a negative influence?
What if we could give up peering into the looking glass? Perhaps we can. It’s a shocking idea from a surprising place — the fashion industry.
‘It’s not a necessity to me, to look at myself in the mirror,’ said Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s creative director, who admits having no mirrors in her house except one behind the bathroom door.
That’s a startling statement from a designer whose job is about cultivating and celebrating beauty. But she is not the first to think that way.
TV presenter Claudia Winkleman has revealed that her mother, Eve Pollard, wouldn’t allow mirrors in the house, so she would grow up ‘reliant on her brain rather than her looks’.
Rosie Green (pictured) ditched mirrors for a week to see if it would affect her mental health and the way she behaved
‘It would explain how I do my make-up . . . and the fact that I look like I’ve slept in a skip,’ Claudia said.
Which started me thinking — how does looking in mirrors affect my mood and behaviour?
I start by taking note of how often I look in the mirror. First thing in the morning, when I admonish myself for looking tired. Then when I walk past the big hall mirror, which is meant to bring in light but instead makes me look dumpy. After that there’s the bathroom mirror pre-shower, then the magnifying mirror I use to do my make-up.
The rest of the day I can avoid them, except when I go to the loo. Then in the evening it’s back to the bathroom and dressing table to remove my make-up. Oh, and that’s not counting catching my reflection in the car’s rear-view mirror or a shop window.
That’s a lot, right? Of those ten or so encounters, I’d say only two are really necessary and the ratio of negative to positive experiences is five to one.
But if the creative director of Dior can do it, I can too. I decide to go mirror- free for a week.
The only other times I’ve been minus a mirror have been on camping holidays, which felt liberating, but also disconcerting.
I start by covering all the mirrors in the house with sheets of paper. Then I pull on my workout gear and rub sunscreen on my face (hoping it has sunk in so I don’t scare the neighbours).
Brushing my teeth is fine (though I worry about white marks around my mouth); applying eye cream is less easy.
I’m 46 and a beauty brand consultant as well as a writer, so I probably have more than my share of hang-ups about pigmentation, wrinkles and sag.
Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri said that looking at herself in the mirror is ‘not a necessity’ to her, and that she only has one mirror in her house – behind the bathroom door
This self-criticism is mostly generated by the magnifying mirror, which I love because it exposes whiskers before anyone else can see them; but also hate because it enlarges my flaws.
I like the flattering mirror in the bathroom, though, and the slightly tilted one in the bedroom that elongates and slims.
It’s a working-from-home day so I’m feeling relaxed until I remember I have to meet a potential client on a Zoom call. I tong my hair, burning my head (the mark is still there three days later), then put on mascara, trying not to poke myself in the eye.
It’s disconcerting to think that, having done my make-up without a mirror, I could look like Bette Davis in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane, but at least I can tick ‘Hide Self View’ on Zoom, which means I can’t see myself, even if others can see me.
Without my image staring back at me, I’m less distracted in the meeting and it helps my mood for the rest of the day.
The next day, though, I realise I miss looking in the mirror. I miss doing my make-up. I don’t think I can risk poking my eye out with the mascara wand, so I am barefaced 24/7 and it leaves me feeling unsure of myself.
On day three I have an evening out with two glamorous friends, so I rub in tinted moisturiser, tap on some blush and add bronzer under my cheekbones.
I ask my teenage daughter if it looks OK. ‘Kinda,’ she says.
‘It looks a bit . . .’ Then she tries to blend something for me. At which point she says, ‘oh no, that’s just your skin.’
Great. So I actually feel worse not looking in the mirror.
I ask the psychologist Fiona Murden, author of Mirror Thinking: How Role Models Make Us Human, for her thoughts.
She says many of us may have a slightly distorted view of how we look, and a dissatisfaction with our reflection. ‘What we see in the mirror is often a projection of how we are feeling, rather than what is looking back at us,’ she says.
I agree. If I feel tired, upset or stressed, I transpose that into unhappiness with how I look.
At the end of her week without mirrors, Rosie said she was happier because she had cut down her mirror usage, saying that she thought less about her appearance and hadn’t thought about ageing at all
Dr Sophie Shotter, a cosmetic doctor, spends her life meeting people who are dissatisfied with their mirror image.
She reminds her clients that ‘when we look in the mirror, we are seeing a skewed version of ourselves. It’s impossible for us to see ourself as someone else would. In real life, we see each other in 3D. When you look in the mirror, it’s a flat 2D image. You tend to see yourself at a fixed angle, often straight on. You don’t animate.’
Plus, it’s a mirror image, so it’s flipped. Photos are not flipped, which might explain why we feel a discrepancy between how we look in a picture and how we look in a mirror.
Sophie confirms that magnifying mirrors are the worst damagers of self-esteem: ‘We see minuscule things and turn them into far bigger problems than they are.’
Despite all this, by day four I’m really missing a mirror. Not only do I feel that I must look awful, but I miss the ritual and confidence boost of knowing I’m wearing mascara, even if I can’t see it.
I can see my hair is looking straw-like from the straggly locks on my shoulders, and I want to use my straighteners but fear burning myself again.
I decide to make myself feel better by putting some cream eyeshadow on, but spend about an hour thinking I must look like Mrs Slocombe, so I take it off. (Or hope I do)
That night I have an alfresco dinner invitation and I crack. I uncover one mirror and tell myself I will use it solely to make myself look decent. I promise not to take long and ignore my inner critic.
But what a surprise — when I come face to face with myself, I look better than I thought I would. I look all right.
For the final days of the challenge, I allow myself to use a mirror for one make-up session a day. I keep the others covered.
At the end of the week, was I happier because I’d cut down my mirror usage? Yes. I think less about my appearance and haven’t thought about ageing at all.
In future, I’ll try to use mirrors sparingly. And I may even throw out my magnifying mirror.
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