Restrictive Reflection: Woman Vows to Go One Year Without Mirrors

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Hey there, Kjerstin Gruys, you’ve got some spinach in your teeth. You can thank us later.

Most twenty-something women spend quite a bit of time staring at themselves in the mirror — this NewsFeed writer included. It’s not because we’re vain, you see (well… at least not all of us are), but just like any adult, it’s important for us to keep up appearances, especially in today’s superficial society.

But one young woman is hoping to break her bad habit of judging herself and how she feels based on the way she looks in the mirror. Kjerstin Gruys, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UCLA, took a vow that most women would never dream of: to go one full calendar year without looking in a mirror, no cheating allowed. And that includes her upcoming wedding.

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Gruys’ project and corresponding blog is called “Mirror, Mirror… OFF the Wall,” and was created after a stressful weekend searching for the perfect dress for her October wedding. Fearful that the event’s pressure would push her to relapse into an eating disorder that plagued her in college, Gruys considered what it would be like if she changed her habits to reflect research she conducted on beauty and inequality while studying for her degree — namely to shift her focus away from outward appearances.

“In my case, I am avoiding the mirror so I can get on with my life and do other things,” Gruys told The Huffington Post. “I hope to take the emphasis away from my body and just focus on other things.”

The goal of Gruys’ project is to get women to rethink their body images and the definition of beauty, but she has also used her newly free time — Did you know we spend up to five full days per year staring in the mirror? Maybe we are vain after all! — to volunteer at the nonprofit About Face, which aims to help women and girls deflect media messages that could be harmful to their self-esteem.

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While we applaud Gruys’ efforts — she did learn how to apply makeup, style her hair, dress herself and put in contacts without mirrors — as well as her underlying message, we wonder if she’ll feel cheated when looking back on her wedding day and realizing that she didn’t actually see herself on what’s supposed to be one of the most memorable days of her life.

But no worries, Gruys was smart enough to write a few loopholes into her rules. She’s allowed to view her wedding photos if she likes, as well as drop the project at any time if it makes her “go insane,” which is probably a good idea. After all, no one wants to look back at their wedding pictures a year from now and realize they had spinach in their teeth.

Erin Skarda is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ErinLeighSkarda. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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