This story contains sensitive content

Content Warning: Body image issues and anxiety.

I gaze into the mirror as the minutes tick on by, turning this way and that, biting my lip as I examine the forest green dress.

Then I tear it off. Way too formal.

Next I try on a sleeveless gray jumpsuit. I wrinkle my nose as I spin a full circle and examine the bodice. It just doesn’t quite hang right on my body. With a sigh, I change out of that one too.

Then I just look at myself. Skinny, small, short. I turn myself at different angles, examine every inch in the mirror. I frown at the sight. Why couldn’t I have been born taller? Or curvier? Or at least with less of an acne problem.

I grimace away and quickly pull on a sweater and baggy cargo pants before I’m late to school. I hurriedly tie my hair up into a knot and head towards the doorway before glancing at the mirror one last time. 

Just before I turn away, I think I see the mirror ripple, but it’s really just a trick of the light.

I flop in bed and stare across the room at my mirror after school, frowning at the way my oversized clothes flap from my body. I feel tired and lightheaded, a little hungry from skipping lunch. I almost fall asleep, but the mirror flickers again.

I see myself staring back through the mirror. I’m pimply and weak and frustratingly small and unathletic. 

I tilt my head to look and critique more.

Mirror me tilts her head back.

I lift an arm and stare at its scrawniness.

She raises her arm, too.

I get out of bed, I spin, I twist, I stare.

And she does the same.

But then it starts the feel like she’s the one staring and spinning and twisting. She’s the one turning and glaring and scowling at the imperfections. I’m the one who feels compelled to follow along. 

A puppet to my own reflection. I hate her.

She and I drop to the floor in unison. Tears spring to my eyes, and when I look up, she’s staring at me, eyes wet, too.

“Why are you crying?” I snap at her, though I know she can’t hear me. “You’re the one making me feel this way.”

She looks away and I do too. We both don’t want to see any more of each other.

And yet I turn back again. She forces me to turn and look and stare once more. Every inch of imperfection. Each blackhead, each stray hair. The way my body sags and clings to bones.

“Stop it!” I try to tear my gaze away.

She stares at me tauntingly. “We’re one and the same.”

I don’t understand.

“It’s really not that hard.”

“You don’t get it,” I whisper to her, and I turn around to break eye contact.

“I think you’re the one who doesn’t get it,” she murmurs back as I step away. “I’m not your enemy.”

A day later and I’m back, unable to pull myself away from her. We sit facing each other, cross-legged, separated by the glass. We’re crying.

“If you want it to stop, just stop yourself.” She raises an eyebrow. “It’s not so hard.”

“I can’t,” I choke out. Tears roll down my cheeks.

Her face shines with my tears. “You can’t?”

“I can’t! I hate you!”

“You shouldn’t.” She brings her arms up and hugs them to her chest, and I copy her. 

“Why do you hate me so much?”

“I think the better question is, why do you hate me so much?” She leans in close and I do too, and she mutters to me, “Am I short? Thin? Fat? Ugly?”

“N-no. Yes. I don’t know.”

She feels my stomach. “Are you?”

“I’m…I’m not.” I stare. “Am I?”

“How will you learn to love yourself if you don’t know who you are?”

We stare into each other’s eyes.

“Who are you?” she asks.

“I don’t know. I’m trying so, so hard to feel pretty and I just don’t know who I’m trying to be.”

“But who are you? Not who you’re trying to be, not your goal, who are you?”

I stare down at my hands. “I’m…I’m a girl who doesn’t want to be ugly.”

“Is that it?”

My tears drip down into my hands. “I don’t know what else I am anymore.”

“Well,” she says, “lucky for you, I’m you. And I think you’re more than that. I think you’re a girl with friends and family and beauty on the inside.”

“It’s not that easy, though.” I bury my head in my hands. “I just can’t look at you without seeing all the things wrong.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t think about me so much,” she says gently, forcing me to lift my head and look at her. “Don’t you have a party later today?”

“I…I was thinking of not going…”

“Go. And don’t think about me for a while. Don’t look at me at all.”

She gracefully stands up and pulls me along, stepping aside to the closet to rummage through some clothes. She emerges with a cream short-sleeved romper and waves it at me. “Just try it.”

I stare at the soft knit fabric in my hands.

“Try it,” she pleads.

Carefully, I set it in front of me and step into it, pulling it up and fitting my arms into the sleeves.

She gives me a slow, long look.

“What? Does it look ugly?” I whimper.

“Does it look ugly on me?” she asks back. She twirls me around.

“I-I don’t know.”

“Do you want it to?”


She steps forward and touches the glass. I rest my hand where hers is. “Then no. You’re beautiful.”

Tears. I blink away.

“You really, really are.” She trails a hand down her body, from her collarbone to her shoulder, down her arm, her waist, her leg. “Do you still hate me?”

“I…don’t. Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me.” She and I step back. “You have to go now. Go on. Don’t miss the party. Don’t forget to love yourself.”

I smile and she smiles back. I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear and so does she.

Then I turn around to head off to the party, knowing that no matter what, there will always be at least one person who thinks I’m beautiful.

Mirror me will always think I’m beautiful.

And so, I realize, will I.

November 23, 2023 03:48

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