A Week Without a Mirror
After practicing with hair and makeup since preteen years, I’ve come to love dressing up and looking “pretty”. It became important for me to be self-aware and to always look good. Taking time to sit in front of a mirror, put on music, and do my hair and makeup was a sort of relaxation, transforming both my look and my outlook for the day. To not know what I was going to look like was like walking your dog without a leash: you know it’s there, but you don’t know what it’ll do. I thought that my appearance was important to others, too, in regard to how they treated me. As a sort of experiment, I decided to go without a mirror for a week and see if it changed anything about my views or others’.
1.) People are actually nice
When I did my hair and makeup and felt that I looked the part, I thought people treated me, if well, with respect and appreciation of what I was wearing. Maybe because I was serious about my appearance, they took me more seriously. With a bare face and God-knows-what hair, I expected people to think I didn’t try, that I was a slob, that I didn’t care about where I was or what I was doing. I work in a retail environment and, especially at cash, there is a lot of customer interaction. I was worried that they would treat me differently and be more rude (anyone who’s worked in retail knows how terrible customers can be to workers). The opposite was true: they were as nice, if not nicer. I’m not sure if not being all “dolled-up” gave me a girl-next-door look which they felt comfortable with or if, because I look younger without makeup, they just thought I was “cute” (which isn’t as much of a compliment after 18). Although I didn’t get the usual compliment or the frequent smile from men (which I find creepy anyway when I’m trying to work), I renewed my respect for people’s kindness.
2.) Nobody cares
I had reason to believe that people would comment on my appearance. When I went the rare day without makeup in the past, I had more people say I looked tired. One time a coworker even asked if I was sick though I was feeling perfectly well (I’m pale and have dark circles). I obviously think there’s a drastic difference between me “done up” and me “undone”, and I expected others to see that “obvious” difference, too. Nobody commented. This was the most surprising thing, I think. Nobody cared at all. Probably feeling vulnerable, I found that I kept mentioning I wasn’t wearing makeup the first two days. Nobody even commented. They didn’t compliment me, they didn’t say, “Well, obviously.” They might have been thinking that I looked more tired than usual or even noticed I was bare-faced, but didn’t feel the need to bring it up – because it doesn’t matter. I thought initially that makeup was sort of a way of proving my style, my work ethic, and somehow, my social class, but it turns out that it’s as simple as painting your face. You are the same person with makeup as you are without, and generally speaking, everybody recognizes that for another person. It’s more difficult to realize that for yourself.
3.) I didn’t feel good enough
I wasn’t meeting up to my standards. I felt nearly apologetic the first day. I wanted to tell people, “Don’t worry, this isn’t usually me. I’m usually better than this.” I didn’t accept the “natural” me because I felt it didn’t suit me best. I’m used to makeup and I enjoy it, so in a way, it defines me. I wasn’t showing that to others, and I was showing my best face (literally). I felt completely out of my element. I want to impress others and I want them to like me. I thought that makeup did this for me.
4.) Dressing was a nightmare
Simply put: it sucked. I love looking at how different combinations and jewelry can affect an outfit. Though you can imagine the clothes put together, which is why I initially thought it wouldn’t be a problem, you can’t validate your decisions by confirming it in the mirror. You kind of keep guessing until you’re comfortable with how you think it looks.
When I Faced Myself Again…
I put it off for as long as I could. Throughout the week, I was excited to be able to look in a mirror and gussy up again, but when I had the chance to, I was nervous. Eventually, primarily for the sake of being able to write this article, I just did it. I turned around my full-length mirror (which had been staring at the wall for the week). I was smiling like an idiot: it was like meeting up with a friend again. Immediately I noticed how different the memory of my face was from what my actual face looked like. Even without a mirror, sometimes I imagined what I looked like doing something. But I was surprised by how thin my brows were and how puffy and small my eyes looked. I didn’t even look at or even think about my body at first sight. I had to actually go back to the mirror to look at my body. It was a little rounder than I thought, but I didn’t mind at all. It’s amazing how much you forget about yourself in a week.
I don’t see makeup as being as glamorous as I had before. Before I had the impression that makeup transformed me and transformed my face. Now it’s more like hiding parts of me. The more liquid eyeliner, the less of my skin showing. Foundation masks me. It’s not a bad thing; I still enjoy makeup. But it’s not as magical as I saw it two weeks ago.
I have questions about mirrors, though… Why do we have so many of them? Why do we always have to validate ourselves in the bathroom, at work, when we wake up, when we go to bed, touching up lipstick, brushing our teeth, passing a window, in pictures, in videos? Why do we keep judging ourselves all the time? We’re our worst critics. Though appearance arguably shows something about ourselves (i.e. style), it does not define everything. And nobody’s looking or judging nearly as much as you are of yourself. It’s okay to just let go and focus on work, focus on others. Looking at ourselves takes away from looking at the beautiful world, at our loved ones, at our life. There are more important things, even though it was much harder to admit that a week ago.