I’ve been thinking about my dual fear of mirrors and obsession with my magnifying mirror for a while now. I absolutely hate seeing my reflection in mirrors and photos, after a lifetime of seeing eczema, red and sore skin in them. However I now have an obsession with over analysing the poor state of the skin on my face with a magnifying mirror to assess the damage daily. The two things don’t mix well.
Inspired by this brilliant article by my lovely friend Nina Ajdin, Haunted by my own reflection on AtopicDermatitis.net, I can relate to so much of what Nina writes and her blog is well worth a read.
These are my reflections on reflections (geddit?).
Don’t like looking in the mirror?
If you also hate looking in the mirror, here’s a few tips that I find have helped me
- Avoid them – Take down the mirrors, avoid looking in them and just know that you are worthy. You are healing and you are beautiful. Save the mirrors until you can recognise yourself again if you find it really triggering. I have just one mirror in my bathroom that is screwed to the wall that I can’t avoid but otherwise, there are no other mirrors. I don’t need them right now.
- Talk to yourself – I started doing this after some therapy and I have to say, after an initial feeling of embarrassment that I sounded like a dick, speaking daily to myself in the mirror really helps me. I tell myself I’m doing great, just say Hey Ruth, how you doing? I tell myself I am beautiful, that I am healing, that I love me! I say, Hey Ruth I love you! Sounds corny but it works. I couldn’t even say the words I love you out loud to start with but after daily practise and lots of tears I can now say it and smile and know that it’s true.
- It’s OK to not like the situation – It’s completely OK and also understandable to not like what’s going on with your skin. If you have eczema, psoriasis or topical steroid affecting your face I know how tough that is. Know that you are not alone, this is not fair and it is not your fault. But you are still worthy, you are still amazing. You are still you inside and you’ll find your way to functional skin in time.
- Positive Affirmation mirror vinyls – I got some wonderful mirror vinyls with positive affirmations on them from The Real Skin Club. They’re brilliant, look really cute and are a constant reminding to myself to be kind, gentle and compassionate with myself. They say I am Enough, I am resilient and My skin does not define me. Use my code SHAPEOFSKIN at checkout for 20% of
- Would you talk like that to a stranger? – Remember that you need to find kindness for yourself and empathy for what you are going through. I’ll bet you would not judge a friend going through the same thing with so much harshness. Imagine you are talking to a loved friend, or even a small child. Be your best friend through this, it’s hard enough already!
Love hate relationship with mirrors
At the same time as avoiding my reflection in mirrors, I am obsessed with analysing my face in minute detail with a magnifying mirror. I’m pretty sure this is unhealthy, but it also helps me with my other obsession, picking off the flakes, and let me tell you, there are a lot of flakes. I sit with a magnifying mirror and my tweezers and gently remove any that are ready to leave my face and join the dust revolution in my house.
I don’t think it helps though as it solidifies my perception of myself, that my skin is always red, angry, dry, flaky etc. When in actual fact, often it looks a damn sight better than I think it does.
When your skin hurts and is itchy and permanently uncomfortable, it’s easy to imagine that just because you can’t stop thinking about it, everyone else can see how bad it is too,
Most people won’t notice, most won’t care and very few will actually be judging you.
This funny cartoon from the National Eczema society portrays it too a tee. It might be visible but in our heads we build it up out of all proportion and catastrophise about the awful things people will think and say. This isn’t helped by the amount of comments stupid people make, something Nina shares about in here blog linked above. More on that in a future blog post about handling unwelcome comments.
It’s not easy, but if you can try not to let the odd few who make ill advised comments tarnish all your thoughts it will help.
No one should hide away from society because they feel unworthy, shame or not good enough.
No matter what we look like, we deserve our place in society.
The problem is that our society is so fundamentally based on how we look and as women, being ‘pretty’ seems to be the ultimate goal.
I’ve always stood out from the crowd and been and felt different. I’ve never felt part of discussions about make-up, clothes, getting nails done and things like that. I’ve always been the tom boy and wondering whether there is something wrong with me.
Because I do not wear make-up and I just don’t care what people think. I do take care with my appearance and like to get dressed up but I won’t be moulded into what society thinks a woman should be.
I’ve now come to realise, with age, that being different is what makes me so brilliant. It’s actually what draws people to me and makes people like me. I am unashamedly me and that’s OK. I no longer worry about being different, now I just get on with being happily a little bit crazy.
Right now I’m really challenging that ideal because most days I am covered in huge skin flakes, red, swollen and inflamed. I know I don’t look ‘normal’ but this is my reality at the moment.
As a society we all need to be kinder, to judge less, to find empathy for others and embrace facial difference.
Because every time you comment on a person’s appearance you may be making them feel like hiding away at home. Avoiding the mirrors and fearing coming out into society. Don’t be that person. Be better than that.
You may also find this blog, ‘Responding to difficult comments‘ interesting.
Finally, a poem I wrote about reflections
I never look into the mirror. In case of what I might see. I'm always pointing the camera. So it's never looking at me. If I do spot my reflection. I'm surprised to spy. Not the horror I’m expecting. But just me walking by. There is always more to any book. Than what is on the cover. It’s not the only thing you see; There’s hidden beauty to discover. My skin is like a mirror. Revealing how I feel. I wish it was as smooth as glass. But that would not be real. Inside though I am happy. Underneath the face you meet. Contented with the life I have. Not taking a back seat. For more poems like this check out my poetry book, The Shape of Skin, available on Amazon.
I would love to hear your thoughts on mirrors. Do you hate them? Avoid them? Do you always think your skin looks worse than it is? and expect the worst because of thoughtless comments from unthinking unkind people?
Let’s reflect on how we see our reflection…