I caught my reflection in the mirror.

I realised something  – I rarely looked at myself in the mirror

Why? I wondered.

I do not have any memory of mirrors in my house until I was 7 or 8 years old. There must have been some bathroom mirror I guess.I realized  that many Indian households have 1 or 2 bathroom mirrors and rarely any full length mirrors in the hallway (This was back in the 90’s and I guess things have changed now). I do not remember having any mirror in the hallway either.

I associated mirrors with vanity and conceit. People telling you to go and study instead of wasting time in front of the mirror. That girls should focus on studies instead of wasting their time on beauty. That only vain and conceited girls spend a lot of time in front of the mirror and vain women are bad. That good women do not care about outer beauty. That good girls study and do not talk to boys. That good women have no time for beauty because they are too busy loving and taking care of their families. People need not tell this to your face. Society sends out such sublime messages.

The other reason I avoided mirrors was body shame. I disliked being a female (because men had it better in India) so, I did not want to look at a woman staring back at me  in the mirror. There was nothing wrong with my body and I had no body issues whatsoever but we have such a huge sense of shame as a society towards nudity, women’s bodies and being a woman  and most Indian women are affected by it.

We look down upon nudity. Women’s bodies should be covered up. They cause men to go wild. Nudity is associated with dirty unmentionable things – sex. When I came up with this point, I spoke to a couple of Indian women on being naked with your own body. Most of them were shocked and instantly rejected the idea. One of the girls I know is never ever naked unless she is showering. She does that quickly and puts her clothes on in the bathroom. When she changes clothes, she takes off one piece and puts another. She never undresses completely. Another lady and a mother I spoke to also, did the same thing. She felt awkward at the thought of it. I asked her “what about when you are having sex?” She replied “Even then, I will have some bed sheet over me. How can you expose yourself completely?” Why are we taught to be so disconnected to our bodies? Women give birth but are uncomfortable being naked with their bodies. Like looking at themselves could cause bad things to happen. In a lot of Indian middle class houses, there is rarely any privacy and people often do not have rooms of their own. So, in some ways I can understand where these women come from. They had to get dressed completely in the bathroom before emerging out due to modesty.

Another reason was that I used to associate mirrors with girls preening themselves (which was frowned upon anyway). When I thought of women preening, what came to my mind was Indian cloths (dislike), loads of jewellery (dislike), women pretending to be all girly and happy at weddings and other ceremonies in grand clothes and jewellery (big dislike), women bowing to traditions (dislike), women being dumb and doing what old women and men told them to do (big dislike).

No wonder, I avoided mirrors because I had so many negative associations with them. Things improved when I was living alone and I had a big mirror in every room I lived in. And since I do not share a room ever with anybody, I can walk around however I please. I now look at myself every day and every time I can in a mirror. I spend more time in front of a mirror. It actually feels nice. Sometimes, you have to know where your conditioning comes from and break it. It is freeing.

Exercise: Look at yourself in the mirror naked without shame. Every single day.


5 thoughts on “Mirrors

  1. I hav had opposite experience. I m a book worm. I never thought abt hw I looked . My aim was to study well n be financially independent first bcoz ifi failed in exams I might be made to sit at home n stopped frm coll school..
    I was very plain all time n tis was something frowned upon by all except my class teacher.
    brother always spends time in front of mirror n tis was always frowned upon saying tat he was acting lik a grl.. n tat I shud hav been a boy.. nw im earning n nw I feel I hav time to think abt hw I look..

    1. That is the point – why do we assume that book worms and girls who study well or intelligent cannot look good and vice versa? Why do we have to feel the pressure to concentrate only on studying & not focus on looks or we will end up good?

      1. With me it has always been tat way. I cant remember faces wen i meet ppl i shud see them atleast thrice or I m blank. I feel that is the reason i dnt care much of hw one looks. what always mattered was wat one thinks n how much enjoy their company..
        It shud be left to choice. If I wish to look good and spend time for it it is my wish. But if i prefer reading a novel than to apply a nail polish (I am too lazy to do tat) bcoz i just dnt care, it is my wish. Everyone has different families n different backgrounds.. They all have their own “you r supposed to b lik tis” rules!! I dnt lik those..
        And one more thing abt detesting the bodies, We r taught never to be naked especially in bathroom, Guess y?? Bcoz the Shaitan(Devil) does “Bad things” to us.. N tis is hammered n hammered in the brains of grls ( after they come up of age) and it becomes the mind set!! Fed up of it all..

        1. Never being naked even in bathroom is new to me. But I have noticed many women are so very uncomfortable being with their own bodies that they cannot remain naked with their own bodies for more than 5 minutes. I feel making your children get this attitude is really bad & unhealthy

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