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I spent a month avoiding mirrors and make-up


Mirror mirror: Sorcha Cusack looks at her reflection again. Photo by Martin Maher

Mirror mirror: Sorcha Cusack looks at her reflection again. Photo by Martin Maher

Mirror mirror: Sorcha Cusack looks at her reflection again. Photo by Martin Maher

How many hours do you reckon you notch up looking in the mirror? Getting ready for work, touching up lippy in restaurant loos and curling hair for weekend parties?

It's estimated that women will spend a year and three months of their lives looking at themselves in mirrors – and yet how often are we truly happy with what we see?

In the past, we've had juice fasting to rid the body of nasty toxins but could mirror fasting be the way to rid the mind of negative thoughts?

Sorcha Cusack (21) from Letterkenny, Co Donegal, has finished up a 30-day experiment, living mirror- and makeup-free in a bid to challenge her own sense of self-image.

"The idea to do it came after a night out with friends," explains the UCD law student. "I'd spent about an hour and a half getting ready, doing my hair and make-up and picking out an outfit.

"I thought I'd everything done immaculately but when I did that 'final look' in the mirror before leaving the house, I still wasn't happy. I ended up going out thinking I could have changed or looked better.

"I realised if I'd just gone with how I'd felt and not looked in the mirror, would I have enjoyed my night more," she said.

Keen to see if stopping scanning her reflection for flaws would lead to a revelation in self-esteem, Sorcha decided to do a month-long 'fast' from mirrors and make-up.

"Friends thought I was crazy," she laughs, "but it did spark a lot of conversation on the importance we all put on vanity and appearance."

Despite having read blogs by other people who'd raved about their "soaring self confidence" doing a mirror fast, Sorcha didn't experience the same euphoria.

"The first few days especially I felt very self-conscious and under-dressed," she admits. "On nights out, I felt vulnerable and inferior. I wanted to give up."

Even on a practical level, it wasn't easy with shiny surfaces, lift walls, selfies and shop windows all providing an opportunity for self- reflection. "It really made me aware of how frequently we're checking ourselves out and analysing how we look all day," she said.

But, interestingly, Sorcha soon realised that it wasn't looking in the mirror that controlled how she felt. "People always say that confidence is all in how you feel, but I never really believed that until I took the mirror away.

"It took the process of removing the mirror to make me realise that the mirror itself doesn't matter. If you feel good you think you look good and if you feel bad you think you look bad, regardless of what your reflection's like."

There were other positive revelations. She was more willing to accept compliments on her appearance rather than brush them off as being 'down to make-up', friends were helpfully honest about what outfits suited her and ensured she never spent the day with anything stuck in her teeth.

"No one actually said anything negative about my appearance," she said. "You think if you go out without make-up, people are going to be staring, but they really don't care. It's all in your head."

Now that it's over she reckons she's not so critical of her reflection and is no longer so ready to rush out to buy new 'must have' make-up.

"It's not like I've given up on my appearance altogether," she confesses.

"But it's made me realise that how you look isn't the be-all-and-end-all to enjoying a night out."

Throughout the month, Sorcha blogged about her experience for SpunOut.ie and credits the youth organisation for helping to build her confidence and promoting a positive self-image in young people.

"I don't know if I've inspired anyone else to do a mirror fast, and I don't know if I would recommend it – it's a tough month," she laughs, "but I think it's important to think more about how we see ourselves.

"I spent a lot of time over the 30 days waiting for my lovely looking friends to check their reflections in mirrors in toilets and not one of them was ever fully happy with what they saw, which made me really sad," she added.


Irish Independent