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Earlier this spring, the Daily Mail cited a study which found that 90% of women over the age of 40 hate what they see in the mirror—the paper dubbed it "Midlife Mirror Angst Syndrome," this survey of 1,200 women that found only 9% of respondents were happy with what they saw. So what would happen if those pesky mirrors were taken away? The Mail decided to find out—and assigned writer Marianne Power to live a month mirror-free.
At the beginning of her experiment, Power seemed to fall firmly into the category of women over 40 who didn't like what she saw in her reflection. She writes:
Every morning, the first thing I do is scrutinise my reflection in the mirror as I brush my teeth. On a bad day, I see big red hair, a fat face, gappy yellow teeth, spots and wrinkles. I see arms and boobs I like, a waist that can sometimes be OK, then horrible pasty hips and thighs that are covered with broken veins and cellulite and totally out of proportion to my top half.
My calves would be fine, but for an unsightly scar from an operation.While our instinct tells us that 30 days without a mirror would be liberating and carefree, in actuality quite the opposite happens—and by day three Power is in the throes of severe anxiety:
On a very bad day, this image will be used to confirm all my worst feelings about myself — the feelings that started when I was called ‘carrot-top’ at school and was never asked to dance at the disco; feelings that continued as I lay sweating and lobster-red with my mahogany-skinned friends on holidays; feelings that I am fat, ugly and will never fit in. On a good day, it’s better. Sometimes I think: ‘All in all, not too bad.’
On the first day I kept track of the number of times I automatically went to check myself in my computer screen, a window or by pulling out my compact. From 9am until getting home at 9pm, it was 22 times. Not knowing what I look like makes me feel cranky. And it gets harder. By day three I am obsessed by the progress of a spot I feel coming up on my chin and cannot bear not to check it. I become convinced that my colleagues are looking at it. By day four I feel claustrophobic, like I’m trapped in my own body. I can’t shake the feeling that if I can’t see myself, I’m not really here.During the second week on the no-mirror program, Power cheats twice—once because she's trying on a pair of pants in Zara—but by week three she's back into it, even going out with friends mascara and hairstyling-free. The reaction?
The odd thing is that I’m getting compliments. A couple of friends comment on how ‘well’ and ‘relaxed’ I’m looking and, because I have no evidence to the contrary, I find myself believing them.Check out the results of Power's experiment here.
One even asked if I’d had my hair done, which is ludicrous given the no-maintenance routine that has replaced hours in front of a mirror with heating irons. Could it be that all that primping and preening make no difference? Or, worse still, make us look so trussed up and self-aware that we come across as less attractive?
· Lose your reflection and gain a better perspective [Daily Mail]