While I’m loathe to admit it, sometimes a really bad hair day can really throw off my mood. Ditto with a giant pimple in the centre of my face. I might be rationally aware that no one else has really detected — or likely cares — about the minor fluctuations in my appearance from day to day, but I’m willing to cop to a certain amount of vanity — the kind that has me excusing myself to hit the bathroom, if only to check out how things are going in the mirror. And if I don’t like what I see and can’t fix it, it won’t completely ruin my night but it might affect my mood and how I interact with people. It’s one of those behaviours that feels ridiculous but you can’t seem to stop yourself from engaging in — like behaving like an irritable teenager around your mother.
But what if I stopped looking in the mirror altogether? That’s the project one woman initiated: Mirror, Mirror…OFF the Wall. Kjerstin Gruys is in her late 20s and she lives in Los Angeles. After becoming exasperated trying on wedding dresses before her impending nuptials, and after years of grappling with typically female body insecurities, and after gaining enough weight that she hated looking in the mirror, Gruys decided to spend one year without looking in the mirror to test how it might affect her sense of self.
Writes Gruys: “My values and behaviors had been at odds, and this would be the ‘step back’ from vanity that I needed. I would force myself to experience life from the inside-out, instead of the outside-in. But could I do it? How? And with what effects on my life, self-image, and personal and professional relationships? Was it possible that removing mirrors from my life might actually cause me to become more obsessed or insecure about my appearance? Would I completely lose the ability to apply make-up, style my hair, or select flattering and chic outfits? Despite these looming questions, I felt very determined. Somehow, I would wean myself off of mirrors for a year!”
Her reactions have been predictably mixed. Like most habits, vanity is a tough one to break. But in the last few months Gruys has learned how to apply mascara without a mirror. She acknowledges that she continues to feel stress about her appearance, and has cheated a few times and snuck a peak in a reflective surface, but her overall paranoia about her looks has faded. (Also, she has learned that she can rely on friends, family and strangers to let her know when she accidentally applies mascara to her forehead.) She also acknowledges that avoiding mirrors isn’t a quick fix for decades of body image-related angst. But she is seeing some small, positive changes, such as less fixation on the minutiae of her personal appearance.
So how about you? Do you find that what you see in the mirror affects your mood? And would you ever consider a vacation from vanity? Please share your thoughts here.