Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the vainest of them all?


SW Londoner’s Amaris Cole explores the use of the term vain and the modern-day world’s obsession with perfection.


By Amaris Cole

As a girl who was once told by a friend that I ‘even check myself out in the reflection of the aquarium tanks,’ harsher critics may call me vain.

I am a young, blonde, fashion-conscious individual who admittedly, from time-to-time allows her eyes to wander whilst walking past a reflective surface to sneak a peek at this 5ft8 frame.

However, I take exception to the ‘v’ word.

There are two forms of reflection-seekers in this world and I reckon I am in the second.

Firstly, we have the relatively new generation of fame-seekers – men and women aiming for a picture-perfect appearance, gracing the small screen in programmes like The Only Way Is Essex or Made in Chelsea – a reality-soap based in the London’s most exclusive borough, which stars Ollie Locke, who admits he is: ‘happy to be called vain, but never arrogant.’

They themselves don’t object to the ‘vain’ label being placed upon their streak-free, bronzed foreheads.

Then there are the others. Vanity is not why we glance as we walk past the mirror in Topshop; it is the need to reassure ourselves that we resemble something near the acceptable mark.

My friend agrees: “I do it to check that nothing’s gone silly! Like if my coats tucked in my trousers…”

Author of Becoming You, Anna Symonds, looking from a Christian perspective, believes the feeling of shame felt in the Garden of Eden is still felt today.

“People have a feeling deep inside that there is something wrong with them which is channeled in many ways including feeling unhappy with the outside,” Anna said.

A new UK-wide report carried out by Transform, a cosmetic surgery group, announces shocking body image statistics.

The study reveals Yorkshire and Essex residents cast their eyes in the mirror’s direction most often – the TOWIE effect perhaps?

Whilst proud of my blonde roots (literally), I cannot deny that they are aided somewhat by a mixture of chemicals, foil and a colourist called Claire. The results say my fellow bottle enhanced blondes are the most likely to check themselves out, and girls are twice as likely to look in the mirror as men.

I have to question the accuracy of these answers however, knowing many more than a few boys who refuse to step outside until a routine of blow-drying, straightening and moisturising is complete. An ex of mine even asked me to pluck his eyebrows.

In contrast, the survey found of those aged 45 and over, only 9.4% use a mirror ten times a day, as most women do before they reach this age.

One of my friends admitted: “If someone asked me I’d probably say I look in the mirror 5 times a day, but if I really think about it, probably more like 10!”

Kjerstin Gruys, a Sociological researcher, is rejecting the mirror for an entire year – including her wedding day, to examine the relationship between beauty and inequality.

She says this has improved her confidence.

Kjerstin says: “I’m able to focus on all the awesome things in my life that have nothing to do with my looks.”

She suggests as we grow older we gain confidence and therefore stop checking our reflections – a habit which Kjerstin says shows insecurity.

“Older women might be done with all that fuss!” She adds.

But should we take Kjerstin’s lead and ditch the mirror, even if we have the time to stop and look?  But is that even possible when we can’t even get in a lift without seeing our reflection though?

Increasingly, cosmetic surgery is the solution for our insecurities. Among Transform’s female patients, the majority are under 45, but older clients are still having work done, including tummy tucks, breast lifts and Botox.

Kjerstin says: “Entire industries exist and thrive on us not being happy with our appearance, so it isn’t surprising that we’ve seen an increased pressure to look impossibly ‘perfect’.”

Mere mortals have neither the time nor inclination to adopt the Made In Chelsea/TOWIE approach, yet rejecting the mirror shows a worrying lack of confidence.

Life is full of opportunities, none of which are found behind the dressing table – but before stepping out the house and finding them, perhaps the mirror is a good place to start.

Wake up, get dressed, look into the glass and appreciate who’s looking back.


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