Editor’s Note: On those days when you look in the mirror and all you see is ugly, avoiding your own reflection can be an effective on-the-spot strategy in breaking the cycle of negative self-talk. But what might be the consequences of giving up mirrors for an extended period of time? Could it trigger a more positive view of your body? Or would it have the opposite effect? Kjerstin Gruys has taken the leap to live without mirrors in the hope that it will help her heal from poor body image.
On March 26, 2011, self-described “feminist fashionistette” decided to abandon her own reflection for 365 days as a way to explore the negative relationship she has with her body. And if that isn’t enough of a challenge, Gruys is to be married this October. We are wowed by her experiment and we think you’ll be, too.
Here’s the lowdown on the first 100 days.
Three months ago while shopping for my wedding dress I decided to stop looking at myself in the mirror … for a year. This decision was motivated by my growing frustration with my poor body image; I was tired of feeling vain, insecure, and indecisive. As a feminist academic who studies the relationship between “beauty” and social inequality, I also felt like a hypocrite. Could ditching mirrors force me to re-prioritize? Here’s a “reflection” on my first 100 days.
1) FEASIBILITY: YES, I have been able to almost completely remove mirrors from my life, and I no longer feel dependent on them. This feels is pretty phenomenal. Still, it’s been really difficult, and sometimes I still slip up. In other words, I’m not yet 100% mirror-free. Mirrors and reflective surfaces are everywhere and even the most stringent measures haven’t prevented accidental glimpses. (Darn those ATM security cameras!) These peripheral peeks have been mostly benign, but every so often, “seeing myself” has led to “looking at myself,” which is totally against the rules.
At first, these little cheats were motivated by burning curiosity (insecurity?) about my looks but I’ve calmed a bit about that (see below for details). Recently, however, I’ve been mourning the loss of creativity that used to go toward my daily makeup, hairstyling, and outfit choices; I look longingly at my exceedingly excessive collection of abandoned beauty products, and I am SO tempted to push aside the curtain hung over my bathroom mirror and play! The good news is that these urges seem motivated by body-positive creativity, instead of body-negative insecurity. But I still have some work to do.
2) TRUST: When I first started avoiding mirrors I felt paranoid about my appearance. (Heck, sometimes I felt paranoid that I didn’t even exist when I couldn’t see myself!). I became that annoying woman who constantly asks everybody, “Do I look okay?!,” and was unnerved to discover that I didn’t even trust people when they told me I did. This was profoundly depressing. Had I ever trusted a compliment on my looks??
The paranoia has faded (though I am still very curious about my looks), and I’ve learned that my friends and family are much kinder to me than I typically have been to myself. Yes, people let me know when I have mascara on my nose or food on my shirt, but pointing out a mouth full of poppy-seeds is drastically different from the disapproval (or disgust) that I used to project at my reflection in the mirror. I’ve started to trust these outside opinions a bit more, and my critical self a bit less.
So …. do I have FANTASTIC BODY IMAGE now? Well, no. But I never expected to reverse a 15+year issue in only a few months. That would be ridiculously simple, and – as is true for most women – my body image remains ridiculously complex. Yet, I’m seeing small positive changes and these give me hope.
3) WEDDING ANGST:
A few weeks ago I challenged myself to complete all 37 items on TheKnot.com’s Bridal Beauty: Countdown to Gorgeous list without looking into a mirror. (My wedding is in October.) So I got my eyebrows waxed without seeing the results, I downward-dogged with only my sister’s perky rear to guide my form, and I bared my soulto the world-wide-web regarding my body image struggles. Yet, the item on this list that scares me the most is the only item I’m NOT ALLOWED to complete. The last thing I’m supposed to do before walking down the isle, is:
“Take a few moments to reflect on the meaning of the day before giving yourself one last once-over in the mirror.”
Yeah, that “last once-over in the mirror” is definitely not permitted in the rules of my project. But, I’m scared I’ll regret not doing this. Not only will I be desperately curious to know what I’ll look like as a bride, but SO many trusted, sane, wise, and not-ridiculously-vain women in my life (hi, Mom!) have told me that I NEED to take a moment alone to see myself on the day that I get married. I’ve been told that this won’t be about my looks, but about quietly recognizing myself for just one quiet moment during a whirlwind day of momentous transition. And that doesn’t sound so bad, right?
Or …. maybe this moment-in-front-of-the-mirror thing is just one more overly-romantic bridal “must-do” myth, and I’d be buying into it at the cost of this project’s integrity. I don’t have the answer yet, and probably won’t until that moment arrives (or doesn’t).
What do you think?
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Kjerstin Gruys is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Sociology Department at UCLA where she’s writing her dissertation on clothing size standards in the fashion industry. At her blog, A Year Without Mirrors, she’s chronicling her commitment to avoid her reflection for 365 days. Twitter: @NoMirrorMirrors
Cross-posted with permission.