Kjerstin Gruys, a 29 year-old Ph.D. student, gave up looking at herself in the mirror - any mirror - for a year. Sounds like an extraordinary step for any young woman. More incredibly, the mirror-free period included her wedding day!
|Kjerstin in her wedding gown. Image source here.|
Kjerstin says the decision to go mirror-free was a response to her “critical body image and self-described weight obsession.” She suffered from eating disorders as a teen. She had grown weary of the negative self-talk that arose when she saw her reflection.
"I just kind of kept coming back to this pattern of perfectionism, and obsessing about my appearance, and I thought, If I can't think myself out of it, then maybe I need to change something about my environment to force me to change," Gruys explained. "The project was to get rid of mirrors with the intention of focusing on everything else in my life."
Her study of Renaissance nuns was also an impetus for her experiment. The nuns had no mirrors and were forbidden to gaze upon themselves. "This idea of living your life experiencing the world for itself instead of constantly reflecting, you know, pun intended, on how you looked.... It was a life where you could get away from yourself," she said.
As part of her experience without mirrors, Kjerstin volunteered for About Face, an organization that helps women and girls overcome body-image problems. Their motto: "Don't fall for the media circus!"
Aubrey Toole, a fellow volunteer with About Face, said this about Kjerstin’s experiment: "So many things are important about her message. I think so much of being a female in our society today is seeing yourself from the outside. And her message is really to see yourself from within." (emphasis mine).
Kjerstin's blog, Mirror Mirror Off the Wall chronicles her journey. It’s a good read, and good food for thought.
While I cannot imagine excluding mirrors from my life (my lipstick would become my mustache!) I do cheer Kjerstin’s underlying philosophy. We are so much more than a number, size, age, shape or hairstyle. Perfection is not possible; the mirror does not tell our whole story. I'm trying to focus more from within than without.