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Mirror, mirror on the wall...

Updated on June 14, 2013

A symbol of vanity

"Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"

Most of us are familiar with this line which I have taken out of the timeless children's classic of Snow White and the Seven dwarfs. A story where a mirror betrayed the trust of its owner by saying she was beautiful, but then, her stepdaughter was the fairest of them all. I'm not going to bore you with the rest of the story as we all know how it ended - a plot to murder reaped from a feeling of jealousy and insecurity knowing her stepdaughter's beauty surpassed hers.

The mirror is generally an object that has at least one reflective surface. The most common mirror is the plain mirror. For the purpose of this hub, mirrors are used mostly for "personal grooming" and also to "admire" ourselves; and when excessive admiration and appreciation of self come to play, vanity is born.

Did you know these facts about mirrors?

  • Mirrors date as far back as III Century B.C.
  • The Greek philosopher Socrates advised young men to look at themselves in the mirror. Those who were handsome were encouraged to focus on their life, doing good and not to be tempted to stray. Those who were not handsome were advised to make up for their lack of looks looking into their heart and be known by doing good.
  • In the 16th century mirrors were used in mysterious rituals and witchcraft.
  • During the 15th century Leonardo da Vinci introduced the secret coding system. Scriptures were coded in "mirror reflection", which made it impossible to read them otherwise.
  • At the start of the 12th century, no respectful lady would be caught dead leaving the house without a mirror.
  • In 17th Century Russia, mirrors were considered a sin.
  • In 1666, the Orthodox church in Russia banned its priests from using mirrors.


The curse of the mirror

Who is the fairest of them all?

Sure our mirrors don't talk back to us, but when we look in a mirror, we see our reflection. All sorts of messages are fed into our brains about the way we look, how we should look and how we could look. The mirror reflects our physical flaws and what we see feeds on our insecurities. We look into the mirror to assure ourselves that we are happy and content with what we see.

We go looking for mirrors to buy because this accessory has evolved as a tool to feed our vanity and aid us in our quest to seeking physical perfection and self gratification. Whilst Socrates advised that the reflection of the young men should encourage them to focus on life and doing good, our use of the mirror today is almost like a checkpoint for us to stop, have a look, see what's wrong and look for the quickest way to fix the things that we see and do not like.

The mirror tells us we are not the fairest of them all. On our faces it reflects our wrinkles, our black heads, our freckles, our pimples, our crows feet, the dark circles under our tired eyes and our unwanted facial hairs. On our bodies it tells us how we are not looking so good today and how we might need a nip and a tuck, a suction here and an uplift there. Even worse a rejuvenation where you would never dare to think.


We will be the fairest of them all...

The market is flooded with all kinds of beauty products to help conceal what we think does not look appealing to the eye. For what we think is nice, there are always enhancers to make the existing features look twice as good. When we use these beauty products, we look into the mirror and know that it will approve. Our reflection may smile back at us. We will then become the fairest of them all.

There is no lack of beauty or age defying products on the market. The cosmetic giants have made sure of this and our vanity promotes this venture. We have various products for our lips, face and eyes, not to mention products that conceal our spots and blemishes. One of my friends absolutely loves the fashion product Mac Concealer because it hides all her blemishes and gives her the confidence that she needs to step into the world. I made a comment once about how beautiful she looked. Her skin looked creamy and spotless. She threw her head back, laughed and mentioned that it was thanks to the power of make up. She always liked what she saw in the mirror when she had indulged herself in her daily beauty regiment. We have creams to reduce our ageing lines. Even old age is not allowed to exist gracefully. The mirror makes us think that signs of old age is unacceptable and for those who cannot cope with the evidence of it there is always the solution of injecting botox or money spent on anti ageing creams. For extremes and for want of more drastic measures and permanent options, cosmetic surgery is the way forward.

After all this is said and done our reflection in the mirror becomes almost picture perfect. Some like what they see and become content, others take their vanity to a level of obsession. Its all about the external without a thought to the inner self. Use of the mirror is about self gratifcation, becoming a pretty or handsome and presentable picture following the use of all the beauty enhancements. What is the point though of keeping your exterior beautiful when none of that filters through to our inner selves? Socrates advised that the reflection of the self in the mirror should be used to do good and avoid temptation. Our reflection in the mirror today promotes vanity and the desire to attain physical perfection. This has a great tendency to take our minds away from focusing on the good in us as its all about how to look good on the outside.


And the curse of the mirror continues

The mirror reflects what we want to see or better still what our minds tell us. A confident person looks at their reflection and is not phased by a pimple, a spot or a blemish. For people who have issues with their appearance and suffer low self esteem looking at their images, does not always help boost their spirits. An anorexic person looks in the mirror and does not see how frightfully skinny they are. All they can see is someone who is overweight and needs to lose more weight.

Vanity to the point of obsession has caused a lot of unpleasantness in people's lives including in extreme cases death.

The mirror serves a purpose. To help us look presentable and deal with the physical aspects of our beings that we are not happy with. Beauty products exist to help boost our self esteem and make us feel better about ourselves.

The key is when we look in the mirror and do not like what we see, we should be wise in our decision making, do everything in moderation and seek professional advice if need be.


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    • PK2010 profile image

      Anthea Kwaw 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for stopping by to read and sharing your comments. Beauty from within is more important than what is on the outside. The sooner we all learn that, the less insecurities and apparent need for a little bit of a nip and tuck here there will be.

      Hubpages is the place to be, we all learn something new everyday!

    • ahostagesituation profile image

      SJ 6 years ago

      This is so great! What do we do for girls in their teens to convince them that looking beautiful really is not as important as being beautiful? We have all known extraordinarily beautiful men, women, and transgendered (is that plural?), without the sense God gave a farm animal. How great it would be to focus on content of character, huh?

      Love it, thanks! I didn't know much about the origin of mirrors...

    • PK2010 profile image

      Anthea Kwaw 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks izzetl, I'm glad you liked my hub. When I started out, I wasn't sure where I was going with it either. I had my title and desperately wanted to write something about the mirror. My mind kept gnawing at the hopelessness of the situation as I kept going back and forth with what I wanted to write about. It took me two days which I figured was too long. In the end I just hit the publish button because I figured this was as far as I could go with it. I'm happy to know you appreciate it because the purpose of the hub is not very evident from the start. Thanks for reading :-)

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      really good! I had no idea where you were going to go with this hub, but I love it. I had no idea the history and you make valid points about what we see in the mirror, both physically and in general how we view ourselves through society's influences. I liked that you combined both facts and philosophy. Well done.

    • PK2010 profile image

      Anthea Kwaw 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hyphenbird thanks for reading my hub. Great and true comment about the flesh dying and the spirit living on :-)

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      This was very interesting and fun to read. True, that we humans are so concerned about physical appearance as if that is who we really are. The flesh shall die but the spirit live eternally. This Hub presents much to think on. Thanks for the read.

    • PK2010 profile image

      Anthea Kwaw 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      North Wind, thanks for stopping by to read my hub. I'm glad you found it interesting. No, I haven't read Sylvia Path's Mirror, but will look it up to read. Thanks for the info :-)

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 6 years ago from The World (for now)

      Mirrors really do contribute to our lives whether we like it or not. Very interesting hub! Have you read by any chance Sylvia Plath's Mirror? It is one of my favorite poems on the subject.