Bride-To-Be Goes Without A Mirror For 1 Year To Change Her Perspective On Beauty


Imagine not looking in the mirror for a whole year and what kind of havoc it would play on your self esteem and self perception. One girl did just that and decided to document the process as an interesting project.

Kjerstin Gruys is a UCLA doctoral student in sociology and has a passion for body interest from a feminist perspective. She was engaged to be married in 2011, and 6 months before her wedding she decided to take on the brave task of not looking at her own reflection in the mirror for 12 months. And she managed to achieve her goal!

The whole process is documented in a book called “Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year,” which we are excited to read.

“I’d spent close to a decade pondering this curious relationship between feminism and beauty and my own place within these debates,” Gruys wrote in her new memoir, “But planning the wedding had catalyzed ‘a fundamental mismatch between my values and my vanity.'”

Mirror Mirror Cover Design

“I picked out my wedding gown before the project started. Looking in the mirror for hours and feeling critical of myself was one of the main motivators for the project,” Gruys tells YouBeauty. “I want my wedding to be about my partner, Michael, and me, and about our loved ones-not about whether or not I dropped 10 pounds to squeeze into my dress.”

The notion of being a ‘feminist’ has changed dramatically since the surge of the women’s rights movement in the 1970s, and even today there are varying definitions of it.

Gruys would ask herself questions such as “Could I still be a real feminist if I shaved my legs and armpits? How about if I wore a push-up bra? Was I supremely naïve to feel so empowered by a good hair day?” She is not the only one to question whether her ambitions and desires in life qualify her to be a modern day ‘feminist’.

The only way she felt she could adequately answer this was to do something drastic and document the results. She told the LA Times the goal was to figure out whether she could give up vanity and the physical notions of what she thought made her successful.

To avoid her reflection, Gruys hung sheets over the mirrors in her Westwood condo, averted her gaze when she walked past a store window and used the mirrors in her car only for driving. She streamlined her closet, taught herself to apply a bare minimum of makeup and depended on friends and loved ones to tell her if she had broccoli in her teeth.

She writes in the book she realized she had an unhealthy addiction to makeup and was reliant upon if far too much on a daily basis. Can any of you relate to this?

Kjerstin Gruys

“I’d viewed makeup as a necessity, something I couldn’t go without,” she wrote. “The idea of not having it on hand made me anxious. Even if I couldn’t see it, I believed my makeup helped me look more polished, more feminine and prettier.”

During the year without a mirror, she reverted back into the insecure teenager she used to be, who struggled with body issues, depression and anxiety. When she was younger she thought that losing weight would win her friends and make her popular, as she would receive compliments from others. Perhaps this is why she is dedicating her life to exploring the psychological impacts of body image and eating disorders. She has published a fair few articles on this topic.

“They say your biology loads the gun and the culture pulls the trigger,” she said. A good enough reason in itself to try something dramatic to break out the cycle and really get to the root of the issue. How has society influenced the way you view your ‘biology’?

So what happened after the year of not looking in a mirror? She had a ‘First Look Party’ with friends and family to commemorate the occasion. Interestingly, after getting used to mirrors again, she started to relapse and become enamored with her reflection.

“After seeing myself, I was so in love with my reflection,” she said. “But some of the smaller things I had decided were completely unimportant were important again: whether or not I had clogged pores on my nose or if I had a tiny bit of eyebrow that needed to be tweezed again. I was fascinated by it.”

But her message is not necessarily for every woman to do what she did. It is something much deeper than that.

“What I want women to think about is whether their body image would be healthier if they just cared less,” she said. “If every little girl in America thought that she was not beautiful and said, ‘So what?’ I would be thrilled.”

You can follow Kjerstin’s journey through her blog called A Year Without Mirrors which talks about many other issues relating to body image and highlighting the subtle ways media and entertainment play a part in this.

Would you be able to go even just a day or a week without looking at your reflection and being critical of the way you look? How do you think your body image would change if you didn’t have access to picking at your physical flaws each day? It’s scary to think that a lot of our self-worth is tied to how we look. So what can we do to change that, and what different aspects of our lives can we start accessing self-worth from instead?

mirror reflection


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