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Looking in the mirror

It doesn't matter what they're wearing. It doesn't matter who's around. It doesn't matter where they are. If a group of girls happens to catch their reflection in a bathroom mirror, a tinted window, anything at all, at least one will inevitably comment on how hideous she is.

Every girl and many guys, too, have seen this scenario play out. It starts with a heavy sigh, then a remark like, "I look so bad today"; usually a harsh criticism of a specific body part ensues. Many times, it doesn't stop there. The entire body is scanned, and almost every part is assigned a flaw. If the girl is with friends during this round of self-flagellation, they tend to join in. They first assure the first girl that she is the most exquisite and beautiful creature to grace the earth, then they start in on themselves, bitterly insulting their appearance, forcing their sense of self-worth lower and lower.

The looming question is simply, why? I am guilty of it myself, and I cannot answer that question. Why do girls feel so compelled to loose such a barrage of hatred upon themselves every time they look in the mirror? It extends beyond surface issues. The criticism of their bodies is a manifestation of a corrosive self-doubt, of a compulsion to always be a little bit prettier, a little bit smarter, a little closer to perfection. The reason behind this need to be perfect, this nagging idea that one is inferior, remains elusive. As a girl, I can't tell you why this ritual occurs. As a girl, I can tell you I hear many other girls performing it and I myself automatically do it every time we gaze upon our reflections in the locker room or in our compacts. What I know is that it doesn't make a girl any prettier, smarter or more fun to be around. It baffles me to hear such lovely girls telling their reflections how fat they are, how terrible they look, how bad their complexion is. I watch their delicate features contort in the ruthless examination of their bodies, unable to make them see what I see. A rebuttal of their critiques falls on deaf ears.

Of course, I don't listen to their compliments, either. Somehow, in my mind, it's different for me. Logically, I know this is ridiculous, but something won't let me accept their words, and I know that the very same "something" won't let them accept my praise of them, either.

I don't propose to rework the entire brains of adolescent girls. However, maybe, one day, instead of lining up in front of mirrors and identifying faults, maybe we should all pick one thing we like about ourselves that day. It doesn't have to be a list. It doesn't have to be what society deems important or wonderful, but it has to be said, or at least thought. Liking yourself doesn't make you cocky, but it does bring happiness. We wouldn't deny our fellow girls happiness, and we certainly wouldn't say the things we say to ourselves about them. So the question remains, why do we do it to ourselves?

Chloe Lake is a sophomore at Clarence High School.

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