by Helen Zhang //
Look around your room. How many mirrors do you see?
Now, if you did not include your phone, laptop, or other technology with screens, adjust your answer.
Did your number change?
Mine certainly did. Personally, I have five mirrors in my bedroom alone. That fact shocks me. After all, like many 18 year-olds in this day and age, I have a love-hate relationship with mirrors. As a child, my mirror fascinated me. I spent quite a bit of time in front of it, making faces and laughing as the person in front of me smiled and giggled with me. But as I grew older, those faces froze in the reflection. I stopped making them, but my appearance still seemed off. I didn’t like it anymore, but I couldn’t step away.
Mirror Mirror on the wall,
Tell me what are all my flaws.
I recall reading fairy tales as a child. I read them at home, and we talked about them in school too. Everyone remembers the magical mirror that the evil queen had and how it told her that Snow White was prettier than her. In elementary school, we were taught that each fairy tale comes with a lesson. The lesson in Snow White was that beauty is not what you look like, but who you are inside. But that’s not all that I took away. The portrayal of the evil queen suggested that caring about your appearance was abnormal, a bad thing.
We all have that magic-looking glass. That’s what mirrors are. And while it may not be speaking to us aloud, that inner voice critiquing ourselves when we look at the mirror is the same thing.
So what happens when there’s a voice inside you telling you that you are not enough? We begin to see ourselves as the evil queen, someone obsessed with our appearance. As we get older, our relationship with mirrors becomes more complicated—especially as a girl. And yet, the more insecure we get, the more mirrors pop up in our life. The bathroom mirror that I used to quickly check my appearance was transformed into a full-length mirror that rejected every clothing choice I showed in front of it. That mirror then transformed into my phone, a portable device that allowed me to not only critique myself but have my image shared and critiqued by other people. Technology had become a mirror itself, and though I resented it, I still couldn’t step away. I couldn’t step away, and I didn’t know why. I was becoming the evil queen from Snow White.
But why is that a bad thing?
The stepmother needed to hear exactly what she wanted and from the source that she wanted. After being told that she was the most beautiful person, “[the queen] was contented, for she knew that the looking-glass spoke the truth.” How is that so different from the way we use social media? Like the evil queen, we seek approval from others to be content with ourselves. And when we hear critiques, we try to change something to get a different outcome. Filters and photoshop transform our reality to mold into the approved societal standard. But that rarely takes the voice away.
Some of my friends have taken breaks from social media, deleting apps from their phones to get away from the toxic environment. They tell me how refreshing it is. But I could never do that. And neither could the evil queen. She wanted to be the most beautiful person in the world, but all she heard from her mirror was that she was not enough. So she tried to change that result the only way she could think of–by getting rid of Snow White. The huntsman. The lace. The comb. The apple. The queen was obsessed with becoming beautiful, and every failed attempt to kill Snow White brought more anger and disappointment upon herself. I have felt that anger and disappointment countless times when I look in the mirror.
She had an addiction—one that many of us can relate to. In addition to having insecurities about our image, we have to deal with the rest of society telling us that we shouldn’t have them. But those insecurities grow inside us like the “envy and pride like ill weeds” that made its home in the queen’s heart. Weeds grow uncontrollably, and you may think that you have gotten rid of all of them, but all it takes is one single sprout to have a full infestation.
I’m not trying to tell you how to deal with your insecurities. I’m not trying to say that the queen was right in attempting to kill Snow White. She had an obsession; one that consumed her. But what we all need to know is that it is okay to care about your appearance. Unlike the evil queen’s portrayal in Snow White, it is not villainous to want to be beautiful. It is what humanized her. There isn’t an easy solution to dealing with insecurities, and appearance is one of the most common ones out there.
But we all have a little evil queen inside of us, and that’s okay.