Surely it’s not difficult to avoid body image pressures for one day? No mirrors, no social media, no selfies and no telling myself I can’t eat all the cake. Easy? Not exactly. As soon as I woke up I reached for my phone. My thumb hovered over the Twitter icon before I remembered and mentally cursed my past self for thinking this would be ‘fun’.
8AM: MASCARA MADNESS
Confession time: it wasn’t even an hour into the day and I looked in a mirror. In fact, I completely gave in to my insecurities and guiltily applied some mascara as I do daily – my makeup abilities are humiliatingly limited.
It’s so silly – for some reason the thought of my peers seeing me without slightly darker eyelashes made me feel like I’d be walking about without a layer of skin. And it’s hardly as if the swipe of mascara would make me look like Beyonce anyway. Maybe it’s a security blanket? Or a placebo effect? Either way, it’s enough to make me worryingly dependent on it.
9AM: CRAZY HAIR DAY #8678
Oh so lucky gal that I am, I was blessed with a temperamental head of hair to say the least. Think of a bird’s nest filled with medusa tangles – very frizzy and very curly.
With this comes a lot of hair product, a lot of hair styling and a lot of worry. Like every morning, I took my hair out of its twist outs, with an almost laughable degree of caution, but without a mirror. I played about with it until I felt it resembles the usual tangled mess.
And it was going fine, I could manage this, it wasn’t a big deal…but, soon I got tired. My arms began to ache after trying to manage the curls.
I was bored of playing about with my image – and I didn’t even have a mirror. There’s no point in trying to tame an untameable being. My hair has a life of its own – one that seems to fluctuate only between being drunk and hungover, I’m sure- and maybe that’s okay.
10AM: CHECK ME OUT
Walking down the road, I found my head turning to an empty car’s window every now and then. It seems to be some kind of twisted innate behaviour that whenever I register the opportunity to check my appearance I immediately do so.
Every time I caught myself doing it, I quickly snapped my head back, reminding myself that image isn’t everything. It’s going to be a long day…
10.30AM: OUT OF THE LOOP
On the bus, I sat feeling oddly disconnected. Everyone else seemed to be sat huddled around the precious blue light of their phone, scrolling Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.
There was almost paranoia settling in within me as if everyone but me was in on a joke and they could all see how pathetically out of the loop I was. Of course, no one was thinking that. But somehow my mind cycled round and round, manic without its usual toy to occupy it.
12.30AM: TIME FOR REFLECTION
Usually, I’d check my appearance in the bathroom mirrors around lunch time. Ever tried avoiding mirrors in a room full of mirrors?
Surprisingly difficult. To be honest, I ended up feeling a little sad. Perhaps part of my self love routine, whether I realise it or not, is playing about with my hair in the mirror or putting on some lip gloss.
3.30PM: HOME TRUTHS
Walking home, I was faced with torrential rain, heaving winds and bitter coldness.
I anticipated my dishevelled, weather beaten reflection as I returned home. But, when I went to check in the mirror, I realised that today I got a day off from its harsh judgements.
It was a relief. It’s nice to not have to worry about what I looked like walking up the road. I didn’t have to worry because I didn’t know and because I didn’t know it didn’t matter. Does that make sense? In a weird way, I was happy not to see myself. There was no pressure to fix my hair or wipe away any smudged mascara – I could just get on with my life. What was this madness, this witchcraft?
I can’t deny I found myself missing the curiosity that comes with checking up on my usual social media. But, honestly, I realised that today I wasn’t comparing my less than perfect skin – apparently spots torment you for life, not just puberty – to the inhuman, flawless Instagram skin, complete with Photoshop, a ‘natural’ filter and some sort of ethereal lighting. At the root of my insecurities seems to be my insatiable hunger to compare myself to others. And that can’t be a good thing.
7.30PM: HAVING MY CAKE & EATING IT
AS it got darker, I found myself planning out my evening, about five episodes of Stranger Things thank you very much, and then the cravings kicked in. Usually, I’d ignore it: eat some fruit, have some herbal tea, make a smoothie.
Not today. Today I wanted cake and I went all out, doing it DIY. Whoever said you shouldn’t eat raw cake mix clearly missed out on the spiritual awakening in their formative years. Even better than the cake mix – okay, that’s debateable – is Stranger Things perfectly accompanied with the finished product. And not worrying about notifications inbetween mouthfuls made everything that bit better. Bliss. There’s something so therapeutic about letting yourself just enjoy food: no guilt, no calorie counting, no stress.
An interesting day. The social media break definitely did me a world of good. By the end of the day it was the last thing on my mind. I went to bed less stressed with a mind that wasn’t running riot with the usual paranoia.
That’s me a new, enlightened woman now. And the cake only added to that. Yes, food is there for all the boring nutrition stuff, but it’s also there for us to enjoy it – don’t mind if I do. Avoiding my image all day was a whole different story. For me, my image means a lot, whether it’s about expressing myself through clothes or understanding my mixed race identity through my frizzy mane. Not seeing my reflection seemed to make me feel not myself, as if I was completely disconnected from my body. I guess moderation is key: you don’t need to have a mirror in hand 24/7 but you also don’t need to avoid your reflection like the plague. Body image pressures are everywhere – that much is clear – but maybe it’s not so much about ignoring them as learning to deal with them.
By Eilidh Akilade…