Mirror, mirror on the wall
Why does nothing fit me?
I have nothing to wear.
Often, women, I meet utter these phrases while glancing with disapprobation at their mirror.
Is it a simple matter of coquetry and vanity? I do not believe that. Beyond the first sentences, I have seen that women too often lack compassion for themselves. Too fat, too small, too large, not the right shape…each client brings her own set of self-criticisms.
Which made me wonder, what do we look for deep down in ourselves when we look in the mirror?
The creation of standing mirrors, commonly called psyche around 1900 revolutionized our perception of ourselves.
It was no longer just our face, as had been the case with handheld mirrors, instead every part of our body could be appreciated or depreciated in front of the mirror.
We can keenly observe our body parts with intensity for the first time and in personal privacy, focusing on what appears to be missing or what seems to be too present.
While we observe our own bodies, we tend to forget an important parameter. The image in the mirror appears incomplete, and that is a large part of the frustration we feel. In the image in the mirror, we do not see ourselves through the eyes of others.
We do not see ourselves in movement, laughing, talking, moving, or smiling. Without the external observing eyes and natural body movement and expression, all of our individual and unique inner beauty is extinguished.
Instead, we see a frozen image of ourselves. Often, trying to smile in vain, while critically observing every detail of our body to make sure that we align with and belong to societal norms.
According to I. Queval 1“The body is better and better known, maintained, cared for… “ With it “we have developed, consciously or not an obsession with our bodies and those of others “
Consequently, and bearing the latter in mind, feeling beautiful seems to be only possible when there is harmony between the idea we have of our appearance and the reflected image of our appearance.
This explains why the likelihood of dissonance can be high even though, although feeling beautiful does not exclusively rely on anesthetic parameters.
Beyond the physical aspect of our bodies, when we look in the mirror we unconsciously search for our place in the world and seek to make sure of our existence and we try to feed our need to belong to a group.
Borrowing from her own real-life situation and her daunting wedding dress shopping experiences author and sociology scholars Gruys 2 self-experimented with an idea on how to maintain a positive body self-image.
She decided to refocus her attention by giving up mirrors and other reflective surfaces. Instead, she relied on others and their feedback to help her assess and sense her actual looks as well as outlook on life. This suggests that the way we perceive our appearance and dare perceived has not only to do with our looks per se but also our outlook in life that we project through our bodies.
One other approach suggested by Deborah Tolman 3 is to start from a young age by introducing realistic dolls to young girls and boys as they have a huge effect on the sense of self and their ideas about the body and ideal body. This would allow us to set realistic expectations instead of making us run toward a life of frustration and self-sabotaging.
Finally, we come to the realization that there is no perfect body shape because beauty is subjective and evolving. There are only stereotypes of body shapes which are easier to dress for the fashion at a certain time and place. Hence the confusion.
Feel invited to start every day by waking up in the morning and greeting yourself in the mirror. Your best friend will be there and if this is not the case I can help you meet her soon.
1 Le corps d aujourdh ui , Isabelle Queval, Gallimard, Folio essais, 2008
2 Gruys, Kjerstin “Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year.” Avery (2014
3 Interview from Deborah Tolman professor of critical social psychology and women and gender studies at Hunter college NY in the video what Barbie would look like in real life from Insider on youtube –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnpqPvSC1lM –