My Looking Glass Self


Self-loathing. No, more self-questioning. I don’t loathe myself after all. And yet, I am still a 20-year-old girl; I don’t exactly like myself, all the time. My brain is hardwired to ‘Me! Me! Me!,’ as is the human condition of youths living under a worldwide ‘Kardashian-government’.  Insecurities, although not always my mind, often bubble to the surface like the final pitiful air bubbles of a slowly drowning scubadiver.

 Am I insecure about my appearance?

Yes. Sometimes.

Sometimes I’m so repulsed by the adequacy of my reflection. The normality. How ordinary I look. The dull brown hair sprouting boringly from my round simple head. My plain looking face, dumbly staring at the world around me. My squinty only half-seeing eyes, not even capable of properly carrying out their one purpose without optical aid. My lopsided mouth, stupidly waffling nonsense in my irritating nasal drawl. My protruding nose, sticking out so far it often seems a separate entity.

How plain I feel.

 I am drawn always to mirrors. How do other people see me? What do I look like to them? Is there spinach in my teeth?  Am I attractive to them? I’ve been told so, once or twice, but the more I look at my benign simple expression the more absurd it seems. Laughable, almost. With thick-rimmed, heavy glasses framed by a choppy wispy fringe, atop of my prepubescent boyish figure, I doubt it. But when I’m grabbed without permission in a dingy bar and fondled by a seedy looking stranger, I wish I was plainer still. In that moment I desire nothing more than to be undesirable.

Some days I do my eyeliner and fix my hair. It’s rare in lockdown, because I’ve little reason to care about my appearance but, out of the desire to feel more ‘me’, I occasionally indulge myself in the comforting ritual. I preen and pander and squeeze and pinch at the fleshy sack we call skin. I paint and powder my face until I have created the ‘beautiful’ version of myself. I look in the mirror. I look good, I think. With contact lenses in and flattering clothing in place of my lacklustre pyjamas I look almost… pretty? My best self, at least. But sometimes the confidence found within the confines of my bedroom ebbs away the further into the real world I get. The jaunty red beret I thought was chic and unique in my bedroom while listening to Prince starts to look gaudily out of place. Sometimes when I get into town, I feel ashamed and I take it off. God, everyone thinks I look like a wanker.

I am critical of my image in ways I’m not of others. In fact, I’m a big fan of people with deliciously wonky faces, crooked smile or outrageously large ears. I find them more attractive; their imperfections humanise them and serve to make them cheekily noteworthy.

I am a perfectionist. My imperfections, by that rule, I sometimes find not good enough.

In reality, people probably don’t think I look like a wanker when I wear a red beret, an ill-fitting blouse, or my boyfriends ‘Thrasher’ hoodie over my outfit from the night before. They’re too busy wondering what to buy for dinner, if the sunny weather’s going to last or more importantly, how they look to other people.

No one even cares.

Why on earth then, did I spend 20 painful minutes this morning shaving my legs?