My mind, my thoughts, my words

Mirror mirror on the wall!

(What are you doing to us all?)

It’s sad and weird, to look into the mirror. Isn’t it a crazy invention! I somewhat feel like the mirror was a revolution, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but just imagine there not being any. Would life be easier, or do we need the mirror for our self-esteem, even in the closer sense? Do we need to be able to look at our bodies to be more aware of ourselves? That can’t be it, can it, because ancient people who contributed to society in some way did not need a mirror for their wisdom… am I more content without watching me age?

These are my mother’s words. I can understand that especially older people will have some sort of (love-)hate relationship with the mirror.  Look into that glass of nothing but your apparent self. Is that you, counting your wrinkles and spotting your spots? Where have the years gone, or rather, where has your smooth, soft skin gone, your coloured hair…?

Yes, research has shown that attractiveness is beneficial in several ways (higher chances of getting a job and higher salaries, less likely to be found guilty, less severe punishments, kids get better grades, ‘beautiful is good’ stereotype – attractive people come with other desirable characteristics…), and the media encourages us to be a little bit obsessed about it. Mirrors then may make the situation just a little more… ‘nasty’.

What we see in our reflection depends on several factors.

  • Sex: women are more critical about their lookings, and maybe to some extent also more concerned due to the media being particularly harsh on female stereotypes. Research shows that men actually often overestimate their attractiveness.
  • Age: Kids who cannot yet cognitively understand the stupidity of the media’s ‘beauty’ ideals and the health risks associated with dieting are becoming more and more threatened and children as young as 7 suffer bodyimage distortion, seeing themselves as bigger than they really are.
    Adolscents makes things worse for girls, who naturally put on body fat to prepare them for motherhood.
    And once we come to adulthood we realise that not only people with eating disorders have distorted body images. In addition to the focus on hips, waists and thighs, aging does not necessarily make things look prettier in the mirror.
  • Ethnicity is also quite important; people of colour generally have a more positive body image, and often, still, ‘big’ is seen as more attractive, reflecting wealth and fertility as it used to be for Caucasians too.
  • Exposure to the media: people who are more exposed to the media are more likely to (subconsciously) try to live up to the portrayed beauty ideals.
  • Current state: If you’re in a good mood, you’re more likely to find yourself attractive. If you’ve just eaten, you’re more likely to feel unattractive.
  • Other factors include sport, menstrual cycle, and so on, and so on.

So, considering all these ‘risk’ factors, it is very likely that quite some people find themselves rather unattractive at points. A further point may be that mirrors themselves like to trick us at times (see this excellent article).

Now imagine there was no such thing as a mirror. If we go a step further, imagine that nothing existed that could reflect our appearance. Okay, that’s a step too far, we do need water and what not, but even if you could still see your reflection in water, glass etc, there would no longer be an object for the sole purpose of displaying our reflections. We would save a lot of energy and time not looking into mirrors. Appearance would become less important in general; not having to bother much about our own looks since we wouldn’t be able to tell anyway, we wouldn’t be so fussed about other people’s appearance either. This might benefit ‘not so attractive people’ in getting jobs and so on, the advantages of being attractive would diminish.

Maybe it’s time for some healthy ‘mirror fasting’ (which seems to be a new trend in some circles – read more here)!?

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This entry was posted on 14/11/2012 by in Body and Health (or not), Cultures, Media.
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