‘Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?’
Undoubtedly, the mirror is essential for grooming. But how do we feel about it? More accurately, how do we feel about what the mirror shows us about ourselves?
I can’t remember when the mirror switched sides turning from friend into fiend. As a child, I watched my mother apply her face cream, brush her brows and apply her lipstick. She seemed impassive during the process. As she looked back at her reflection, what was she thinking?
I never asked.
At eight dressed in a cute girl’s dress, I twirled around in front of our Chevelle Mirror, a princess: beautiful and free. Free? Yes, free from preconceived judgements. I thought I looked beautiful, no ifs and buts.
At twelve, my critical self began to stir in the guise of an ally. It helped me see clear pointing out the bushy eyebrows, so uncool, the need for enhancement: mascara and lip colour. I listened, I wanted to fit in. From that moment on, the morning rendezvous with the bathroom mirror changed.
Wanting a bikini, my relationship with the mirror deteriorated. In the cubicle underpants on, I tried bikinis on my pubescent body. The reflections unrelentingly hounded me. My bulging tummy, my apprentice boobs … Me, me, me everywhere. I felt really uncomfortable about my reflections in the mirror.
It never really abated. Normal body weight attained (anorexia in check), I still felt uncomfortable in change rooms. Pregnancy changed things. For the first time ever, I felt proud of my protuberant tummy. The larger it got the happier I felt, until after the birth of the baby, I deflated like an overstretched balloon.
My esteem plummeted.
Sit ups and time restored my former self. I managed it three times but then, enter menopause. My body changed again. I gained weight. I developed breasts, I’d longed for as a younger woman and my waist spread. Dress shopping became a nightmare yet again. The mirror once again magnified my flaws.
Am I alone? I don’t think so. I wonder why so many women struggle with their bodies every day. What is it in us? What fundamental belief changes the lens from love to critical appraisal?
The answer is multi-factorial but based on self-esteem. How in a world that values appearance so highly do we stay in touch with the many variations of form? Why can we appreciate beauty, style and individuality in an other woman and not ourselves? What did my mother teach me about being a woman? And what did I teach my daughters?
Even in ‘Snow White,’ the mirror is an evil antagonist. Or is it? Is it the mirror or the queen’s lack of self-acceptance that creates the schism within her. Why does she need to hear, ‘Thou, O Queen, art the fairest in the land’?