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17 February 2018

Mirror Images

It’s 9am and I’m stepping out of the shower, reaching for a towel when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It’s the first time I’ve looked in the mirror today, and is the first of around fifteen times I will do so over the next twenty-four hours. From slow, languid gazes into my own reflection, to hasty make-up touch ups in a public loo. My experience with mirrors ranges from traumatizing, to joyful, to plainly indifferent as though I were watching someone else move around in them. A stranger. To look in a mirror isn’t an act of vanity anymore; most people have a mirror in every room, somewhere. We’re raised to check them before we leave the house, a right of passage into the outside world every morning.

Women will spend on average five days of the year looking at themselves in the mirror, reporting it to be a negative experience on the whole.

I have a strange relationship with them – I think affectionately of my time spent in front of the small LED lit bedside mirror that I do my make-up in front of. I’m especially fond of our evening meetings, the time we spend together making my face sparkle (quite literally). I’ve watched my own face move from adolescence into adulthood in that mirror, and even on the mornings where I pat furiously away at undereye bags and wrestle with my impossibly tangled hair, I’m not afraid of it. I read a piece by Harling Ross on Man Repeller a while ago where she discusses the reality of never quite knowing what you look like – I understand it. I think most women do (perhaps men as well?). Never quite feeling at home in the reflection staring back at you. Awkward teenage years and a battle with less than thick locks has meant the relationship I have with my own face hasn’t always been positive, but as I get older, it gets better. There is a kind of mutual understanding, a kindness for mornings where I wake up and don’t look my best. The knowledge that this is what I have, and that to make the best of it and to enjoy it is probably a lot more conducive to an overall sense of happiness. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

It’s the other mirrors that frighten me – the almost too well lit bathroom mirror, the one I spend hours agonizing in every week. My bedroom mirror, praised by my friends as being ‘so flattering’, making me feel only worse when I feel like it makes larger of my curves and edges. These are the ones where I pull at my body, bit by bit trying to see past all of the words laid over it by other people. One day being proud of all my inches and curves, finding comfort in the softness of my stomach and content with every centimeter of the space I take up. The next, terrified to glance, entirely blind to what I actually am and bound to see my body through the words and views of other people.

I can recite my clothes size and height, but in a world that is constantly telling us to be smaller, curvier, stronger, bustier, leaner I cannot feel a space where I fit in to all of the noise. It feel impossible to see through a history of insecurity, sadly inevitable for most women, from my adolescence. Impossible to put my bust size at the back of my mind when getting dressed, because of all the people who have felt it acceptable to comment on them because they extend slightly farther out into the world than most women’s. Like I cross a boundary of personal ownership, into some territory of public opinion. And what I wouldn’t give some days to just forget – even now, older, and much less self-conscious.

The fact that, as a five foot eight, size ten (sometimes a twelve) woman, even I cannot find a space to fit in all the opinions about how a woman’s body should look is frightening. We speak very often of making a space for plus sized women (and rightly so) that I often wonder why we don’t make more of a fuss for averageness. I have a myriad of female friends who are neither skinny nor plus sized who still feel their bodies are not seen. The stigma may be significantly less, but the representation still isn’t there. Women’s bodies exist on a spectrum, and wouldn’t it be nice to see the full rainbow of that on a runway? In a campaign? In a magazine? The middle of the range women who make up the majority, and still can't find space for themselves to be celebrated. Bridging this gap is, perhaps, the only way to make acceptance at either end of the spectrum feel less like tokenism and more like genuine celebration. 

Every morning when I step out of the shower I try to see past every word ever used to describe my body – every contradiction, every unwanted comment, every compliment. Despite being on the whole okay about my body, I still sometimes fall prey to the entirely ridiculous belief that if I just lost a few kilos, I'd be happier. It makes no sense, has no basis in fact and the fact that it is a sentiment shared by such a vast majority of women shows just how insidious every little adjective we see aligned with the female form can be. Seeing past it all can feel like an impossible task, so exhausting by the end of it I feel as though my ability to be objective is entirely gone. Some days I can, some days I can't. What I want is to see my body as mine. Something devoid of any real connotations or commentary. A home, not a battle ground. Until then, I don’t really know if I’ll ever really know what I look like.

MANGO coat, & OTHER STORIES boots, JW ANDERSON bag, AMAZON headband, NEON ROSE dress c/o Brand Attic



  1. another beautifully written piece Camilla :) so very inspiring. I specifically love this phrase: "Like I cross a boundary of personal ownership, into some territory of public opinion."

    p.s.: are your boots from & other Stories in this season? they're amazing! xx

    1. thank you Eleni! I'm afraid they're a few years old. xx


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