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July 5, 2023

My Relationship with Mirrors and Myself

By Finley J.
, 17
, from Harbor Springs, MI

I hate mirrors. Bold statement, I know, but for my entire high school life I hated the connotation that they brought. I hated looking at the blemishes on my face, the rolls on my stomach, every imperfection and truth the mirror told me.


I remember the first time I became aware of my body, in eighth grade. COVID hit and suddenly, I changed from being a happy, chubby extrovert, someone who threw herself into every activity to being an introvert who literally couldn’t leave the house. All I could do was pet my dog and sit on my bed. I was miserable.


I downloaded TikTok, the new social media phenomenon, to try and pass the time. Countless hours of scrolling occupied my days, and so naturally I began to identify patterns. Almost every girl I saw on my “For You Page” was toned, tanned, and tiny. Ab workouts and “what I eat in a day” videos popped up constantly on my phone. I began to compare my body to what the app fed me.


I started to become obsessed with the lifestyle I saw online. Chloe Ting’s 12 minute abs, 2 hour daily walks, and barely eating became a part of my daily routine. Every time I passed a mirror, I automatically lifted my shirt slightly to see if I was any closer to what I saw online. To see if I was closer to becoming the TikTok girl. I wasn’t.


Spoiler alert: the pandemic ended. Life went back to wearing masks, and then went back to somewhat normal. Except for me, it really didn’t. I began to notice more patterns about myself. I noticed how when I would go out for lunch with friends, I couldn’t bring myself to eat a cheeseburger, a food I once enjoyed guilt-free. The way my hair began to fall out. The comments I was starting to get. “You look so grown-up!” “So skinny and pretty!” etc. I felt good about myself. I was closer to what I had seen online, but I still hated mirrors.


The person who pulled me out of this pattern, the person I owe everything to, was my best friend, Esme. One day, I went over to her house for a sleepover. Instead of commenting on my body, instead of pulling out her phone to go on TikTok, she looked me in the eyes and asked “Are you okay?” I told her everything. The ab videos, the burgers, the comments, the mirrors. I laid in her arms and cried about the worst year and a half of my life. Finally, I stopped my sobbing and looked up at her. She stopped stroking my hair long enough to say “That happened to me too.”


Hundreds of thousands of TikTok and social media users see a standard that is nearly unattainable online. “Social media users are more likely than non-users to suffer from anorexia nervosa or other types of eating disorders, with 91% of individuals aged 15-24 having at least one account making them easily exposed. ” (Gitnux blog).


Now, when I pass a mirror, and I feel the need to check my body, I know I am not alone. Girls like me all over the world have faced these issues and maybe they got through it. I knew that if they could, so could I. I have begun to develop confidence within myself, and though it is an uphill journey, I am getting there. I am a woman, of course I am going to have curves and a stomach. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable in your body as a teenage girl, and I am still learning that. I am also learning to love mirrors, and everything within them.


You are not alone. The world of social media and teenagers is rough- I get it. Recovery is not linear—it is natural to still look in the mirror and feel insecure about what you see. Believe me, I understand. At the end of the day, however, you are yourself. Not the tiny influencer you see online, not the girl you see walking her dogs in her aesthetic matching set and AirPod Maxes, nor the girl you always see at the gym. You are you, beautiful in every messy way. As soon as you see that in the mirror, true beauty emerges. I promise.


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