Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Mirror, mirror

Warning: intense navel gazing and retrospection follows. Avoid if such things make you feel slightly nauseous – but return later in the week to learn how to make the Easiest Bread In The World™.

So. Two separate things got me pondering last week.

The first was that I was staying in a hotel in London and I found that I was discombobulated by all the mirrors in the room. Seriously, everywhere I looked I could see my reflection – even when I was in the shower. It made me uncomfortable.

Then, on Saturday I went to the hairdressers for the first time in ages and the prospect of having to sit and stare at myself for an hour made me reflexively grope for the war paint in a state of mild panic.

And it made me realise that I just don’t look in the mirror very much anymore. In our flat we have one in the bathroom, of course, and a full length jobby in our bedroom but the former shows only one’s topmost bits and the latter is placed in such a way that it is not particularly easy to get a look at yourself unless you stand on the bed. Which I don’t.

I’ll usually give myself a quick once over in the morning, and I’ve got a compact in my handbag so that I can do the old spinach on teeth check if I’m out and about and I’ve just eaten spinach. But I just don’t spend a lot of time looking in the mirror, so I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my appearance. I wonder if that is one of the reasons that my weight loss efforts tend to be a little half hearted.

Most women can’t dwell on their appearance without the issue of body image rearing its head. It’s just a fact that a lot of us use our weight and our size as one of the defining measures as to whether we look OK or not. If you are overweight, it’s sometimes difficult to hold your head up and be proud of your appearance if every single measure of attractiveness that society uses tells you that you’re at the bottom of the scale. It tends to puncture your vanity.

When I was in my early twenties, I went through a stage of being very vain indeed. It was just after I had left university. I had lost a few stone and was in one of my rare thin phases. I got my first job working in a warehouse where most of the staff were male and in their thirties or forties and girls, particularly young, pretty, naive ones, were thin on the ground. The work itself was a mind numbingly mundane and so myself and the other girls in the office occupied quite a lot of time flirting with the warehouse men. Perhaps for the first time ever I felt attractive, validated by the male interest. I would get up at stupid o clock in the morning to style my hair and apply make up before work. I lived in high heels, despite the fact I had to walk several miles a day to get from the station to the office.

A decade later I have gone completely in the other direction and, actually, that’s not an entirely good thing. Of course, you should feel validated by something other than how many whistles you’ve collected on your daily totter around the warehouse, and now, older and wiser and in a far more suitable job, I do. But equally, taking a bit of an interest in your appearance isn’t necessarily just about vanity but about believing that you, yourself, are worthy of a little bit of time and effort. You’re worth the five minutes it takes to whack on a bit of lip gloss, or apply body lotion after the shower, or paint your toenails. And, equally (because I had to make this a bit about dieting, right?), you are worth the little bit of time and effort it takes to plan healthy, sensible meals, track your points, and generally look after your health.

You’re worth it. I’m worth it. And it’s definitely worth a little bit of concerted effort so that the mirror can become a friend rather than an object of fear and loathing.


  1. Amen! Brave post Seren. I remember in the height of my PCOS/20lb-heavier-than-I-am-now phase I went to have a bath and pulled the plug without getting in because the thought of lying there looking at my body was too much to bear. The biggest thing that helped me through my diet and exercise was knowing that my now-hubby didn't want me to lose weight to be attractive for him, it was to stop me looking at myself with such self loathing. You are so right - dieting, nice hair cuts, body lotion, pretty clothes don't have to be about vanity, yet we are made to feel (in Christian circles especially) that because God made us we should be happy with who we are and not try to make ourselves better. Couldn't disagree more!
    Thanks for this, here endeth the epic! ;)

  2. Thank you for such an honest post that really struck a chord with me today. I've only just allowed a full length mirror in our house and I can hardly bear to look in it, even though it's at the top of the stairs so I have to go past it to get to the bathroom or our room :(

    Thank you

    Lex xxx

  3. Yes, I too avoid my own eye in the mirror. Especially in the hairdressers but at home too.


  4. Hear hear....we're all totally worth it. I still can't be bothered with make-up for work though - maybe my work colleagues are not worth it!!

    Lesley xx