I Went a Week Without Looking at My Reflection: Here's What Happened

How many times do you look at yourself every day? I bet you it's more times than you think. After spending hours in the morning using the mirror to look good and constantly stopping to see if I still looked good throughout the day, I began to wonder what would happen if I couldn't see myself? Would I start to focus less on my appearance and more on being confident in my natural beauty? I decided to challenge myself by not looking at my reflection for a whole week to find out. Below is a diary account of how my experience went.


The Challenge Begins

Day 1:

I covered the mirror in my room with newspaper last night because I didn't trust myself not to look when I got up. I was right because the first thing I did when I woke up was to zombie walk myself to the mirror.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t cover up the bathroom mirror because I have a roommate. It was awkward trying to use the sink and not look up. I'm going to have to be extra careful every time I wash my hands or brush my teeth.

I forgot that I had plans to go to Wilson’s Apple Orchard as a bonding activity for Her Campus. I felt extremely self-conscious. All the girls looked so cute in their outfits and I couldn’t help but compare myself even though I didn’t know what I looked like.

Since I felt self-conscious of my appearance, I avoided getting any photos taken of myself. Instead, I offered to take pictures for others and took some pictures of the dying trees.

Sunglasses are the enemy! I swear the orchard was full of walking mirrors. I spent a lot of the time having to look at the ground and almost ran into a few people. This didn’t stop me from buying the cutest little gourd and some apple treats from the gift shop, though.

I’m proud of making it through day one, but tomorrow is a school day. Let the real challenge begin.

Day 2:

My hair is long and curly. Not being able to look at it is driving me crazy. I brushed it back into a ponytail because I was afraid it would frizz being left out.

When I was brushing my teeth in the “danger zone,” what I now call the bathroom, I asked myself why am I doing this? I could easily just look up and the whole challenge would be over and I wouldn’t have to stare at the sink anymore.

I managed to resist the temptation, but it’s frightening how quickly I found myself struggling not to look. It’s also frightening how many places there are that you can see yourself. Why does there need to be mirrors in the hallways to get to the Burge dining hall? The mirrors are unnecessary, yet before this challenge, I always looked at them when walking past.

List of some reflective surfaces: glass doors, bus windows, car mirrors, turned off electronic screens and sunglasses.

Every Monday I participate in a group class at the gym. The class is in a room that has two walls full of mirrors. The only spot you can’t see yourself is in the right corner in the front of the room. That is where I stood, stuck in the corner like a child that did something wrong.

Not being able to see myself during my workout, honestly made it less stressful. I didn't’ constantly check out my reflection to see if I was doing the moves right. I also couldn't really see anyone besides the instructor, since they were behind me. It made it easier to not compare myself, for a brief amount of time.

Despite telling myself not to worry about what I looked like, I still felt hyper-aware of my appearance all day. It felt like I was being stared at everywhere I went.

It’s a lot easier to tell yourself not to worry than actually do it.

Day 3:

I wasn’t sure at first, but after three days I think I have confirmed something important. I am a master at putting in contacts without using a mirror. I wonder if there is Guinness World Record for this? It's something I will definitely look into later.

Today was another ponytail day. I also haven't been wearing makeup this whole week, I'm not good when I can see myself so I am not trying to do it when I can't. I have pretty bad acne scars, so I usually feel vulnerable when I'm not wearing ant foundation. This feeling added with not knowing if my hair is a mess or how my clothes look on me is making me feel extra exposed.

I accidentally saw myself for brief second today. It is way too natural to look up when washing your hands. Curse you bathrooms!

After getting a glimpse, I had a hard time concentrating in class. The incident brought my focus back to my appearance. It's funny to stress about how my clothes look even though I have been wearing these pieces of clothes for a year. By now I should know how I look in them.

I ended up skipping my workout because I was feeling too anxious.

It was a tough day for me. Initially I thought this challenge would be a breeze, but it's actually bringing up insecurities I didn't even realize I had. I'm almost halfway through, I can do this.

Day 4:

I have a pimple. I knew the moment I opened my eyes and confirmed through touch. Fortunately, it's by my hair and not in the middle of my face, but it still doesn't help with the insecurities I was already having.

Usually, I would cover it up with makeup or my hair, but my hair is in the same boring ponytail and I'm still avoiding makeup usage, so I just had to embrace the pimple. Surprisingly it was easy to forget about, since I wasn't focused on if it was covered up or not. It wasn't and there's nothing I can do about it.

I skipped my workout again today. All I wanted to do was hurry home and crawl into bed after classes.

It feels like every strangers’ eyes are watching me, judging me. I’m also paranoid that I’m going to accidentally see myself after the incident yesterday. Reflections are everywhere.

After talking with a friend, I began to feel a bit more relaxed. I also realized that the opinions I’m most worried about are those of strangers. I didn’t feel the need to worry if my friend thought I looked fine. Maybe this is because I know she likes me for who I am, while strangers can only judge you on your appearance.

I'm starting to feel silly for being so focused on what people I don't even know think of me. 

Day 5:

I think I’m finally getting used to not using a mirror. I decided to glam things up today by wearing a side bang with my ponytail and some lip gloss.

The lip gloss might not have been the best idea. Unlike with the pimple, I didn’t magically know where the edges of my lips where. I ended up having to use my fingers to apply it and almost missed my bus.

In the middle of class, I felt a slight breeze. I looked down to realize that I missed the middle button of my shirt. 

The bang was also a mistake. I can’t stop fidgeting with it to make sure it looks alright, although I have no clue if it does. I keep trying to hide by tucking it behind my ear whenever I made eye contact with someone.

At my club meeting, my friend told me I looked nice. Well her exact words were “you look nice for not being able to use a mirror.” She could have been lying, but it really put me on cloud nine.

It felt good to get a compliment and restored some of my confidence. Maybe I can still be pretty without using a mirror? 

Day 6:

After my compliment yesterday, I decided that it was time. I wore my hair down, insert cliche suspenseful music.

I actually don’t have any classes on Fridays, but I still went to campus to work on an assignment that was due that night. I was so focused on getting my assignment turned in on time that I didn’t have time to be paranoid.

I’m glad that I wasn’t able to see myself today. It helped me focus on my work and I didn’t waste any time debating on my outfit or putting on makeup when I woke up. In fact, I felt strangely confident that I was rocking the “I procrastinated and now am rushing to turn my assignment in on time” look. I'm a little sad that the challenge is almost over when I have just begun to finally feel more secure about myself.

One more day to go and I have big plans.

Day 7:

Today is the last day of my challenge and I decided that I need to end things with a bang, so I am going out to the mall. I even wore my hair down, wore perfume and attempted to do my makeup. It wasn't anything fancy, just a simple eyeshadow and a repeat of the lip gloss regret. 

Shopping without being able to see myself was an interesting experience. I thought not being able to see myself would discourage me from buying anything, I really only went with the purpose of returning a few items I ordered online, but I was wrong. If anything, it might have encouraged me a bit.

Not being able to see myself didn’t give me a reason to say no. I didn’t know if my jacket looked weird, all I knew was that it felt right. Too often I feel like I don’t buy an item because I’m worried about what others will think of how the item looks. Today I was able to focus on how I felt.

I also bought perfume and lotion, Bare Vanilla from Victoria Secret, since it was on sale and smelled amazing. After that, I got myself some ice cream because I was in a celebratory mood.

Originally I planned on doing a midnight countdown, but I actually felt no need. I had such a good time that finally seeing my reflection didn't seem as important.



Hello Me:

When I finally tore down the newspaper from the mirror, it felt like unwrapping a gift. I was excited and nervous about what I was going to see. 

It was strange at first. I could hear the song "Reflection" from the movie Mulan playing in my head. After a few seconds, I got used to seeing myself and it was similar to seeing a friend. I even took a selfie to commemorate the occasion. 

What I Learned:

This challenge was harder than I thought it was going to be. It made me realize just how often we look at ourselves and how often we have the opportunity to do so. There are so many reflective surfaces.

This challenge also didn't make me feel as self-empowered as I thought it would. If anything, it made me focus on my appearance even more than before. Looking at yourself is like an addiction and I was trying to quit "cold turkey." There were many times when I was tempted to give up the challenge and had a hard time pushing through. I do think that I did gain a bit of self-confidence near the end, but even on the last two days, I had moments where I was worried about what I looked like.

I also noticed that not seeing myself made me not interested in seeing others. For the whole week, I mostly avoided using social media. I wasn't interested in seeing pictures of other people when I couldn't even see myself. Although I had a hard time worrying about how I looked, I did stop comparing myself to others and worrying if my posts looked good.

Most of what I got out of this challenge was an appreciation for being able to see myself. When I saw myself again, I felt prettier than I remembered. My hair was not as bad as I had been imagining it looked all week. I think by not seeing myself for so long it helped not to focus on the little imperfections so much. Suddenly my acne scars didn't seem like a big deal anymore.