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Mirror, Mirror

A recent blurb in the newspaper has me agog. According to an online survey by Transformulas, a British beauty company, women look at themselves in the mirror every 30 minutes on average daily when they’re awake (Did they really need to add “the awake” part?) and men check themselves out every 27 minutes. My guess is that statistics in the US are about the same, but I fear they may be even more outrageous.

The Transformulas survey says that when women are mirror-gazing, they’re reapplying makeup—11 times a day. Obviously this is not the case for men, so what is it that draws us repeatedly to our own image. I’m wondering, when we look in the looking glass or pass a reflective store window, are we looking at or for? Are we checking to see if there is something out of place that needs to be fixed—we’ve left a roller in our hair or a suit jacket is buttoned wrong? Are we looking for imperfection or are we seeking assurance that our appearance is AOK? Or are we feedback junkies, so that mirror-gazing is a mere reflex, a mindless nothing we’re not even aware of doing?

I suppose we’ll have to wait for another survey to find out the answers; in the meantime, it might be interesting to consider what this behavior means to each of us. Think about how often you look in the mirror and ask yourself what you’re generally doing it for. Maybe you were brought up that you have to look perfect all the time and feel anxious that something might be out of place. Perhaps you’re comparing yourself to others and need the constant reminder of exactly what you look like to determine if you’re up to snuff. Maybe, you need that fix from an ideal reflection to keep up your spirits.

What would happen if you became more conscious of this how-do-I-look reflex? It might make you more anxious. Then again, it might make you less. The important part is knowing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This means becoming aware and recognizing motives in a nonjudgmental, curious way; not coming down harshly on yourself for, say, needing reassurance or living in terror of a hair being out of place. For those of you who already know why you’re addicted to the mirror, try resisting the urge. Limit your peeks and see what happens. When you want to check yourself out, will yourself to feel calm and accepting of your appearance. Shift thinking about looks onto something else. Forget about the subject entirely. Make peace with your reflection by focusing on the positives about your appearance rather than the negative. This will be challenging work because you’re changing a habit, but living without constantly “looking” is also a kind of declaration of independence and means freedom.