Not Looking in the Mirror

A year without Mirrors

This is the blog of a woman who went an entire year (including her wedding day) without mirrors.

With all the focus that Cooley, Lacan and even Goffman puts on mirrors, reflections and appearance, it’s interesting to consider what might have happened to her sense of identity during this year.

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5 thoughts on “Not Looking in the Mirror

  1. It's interesting though that she still said her fiance/husband was her substitute mirror — so she still felt a need to have an idea of how other people were seeing her.

  2. This is an article that came out in August about Kjerstin's year-long journey without mirrors. It discusses her need to wear make-up for professional reasons and her wanting to make her wedding about her husband, friends and family instead of the expectations that everyone has for a bride. These expectations undoubtedly come from Cooley's ideas on the Looking Glass Self.

    http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/beauty/could-you-l

  3. Howdy! This is Kjerstin – the woman who's doing the no-mirrors-for-a-year project. I'm so excited to see that the no-mirrors idea is interesting to sociology students!

    Since a few questions came up in the post and comments here, I thought I'd share my 2-cents. YES, Cooley's Looking Glass Self has had a huge influence on this project. Indeed, Cooley insists that it is our interactions with other people who shape our self-image. Knowing this, I never expected (or wanted) to "stop caring about what other people think". I just wanted to stop beating up on myself for not measuring up to unrealistic media standards. My friends and family "reflect" kindness a lot more than the mirror did. I was my own worst critic, and I knew it. By taking away mirrors I took away some of the power of my own (critical) voice. The only catch here…. if I'd surrounded myself with mean-spirited people I would have been in quite a pickle! Lesson here: spend time with people who see the best in you!

    Oh, and lastly…. I'm not done with my full year yet. Today is Day 202! I'd love to hear more from you, and other SOC students, as the adventure continues!

  4. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Kjerstin! I think you've undertaken an admirable project and I'm very interested in your thoughts about it. Do you miss looking at yourself in mirrors? Do you think you'll have a different perspective of yourself once it's over, or do you think you'll regress to the habitus of criticizing yourself from your perception of others' viewpoints?

    This extraordinary project reminded me of Lacan's mirror stage, in which the subject first identifies with their mirror image and through changing their perspective to see themselves as an object, the individual becomes part of societal envelope of the symbolic-imaginary-real. Do you sense the self-objectification that Lacan suggests? If so, do you feel separate from others now that you've chosen not to participate in this simple behavior?

    • Hi Griffonage. Sorry for the delay posting my response – I'm on my honeymoon right now with sporadic email and even more sporadic attention! Here are a few answers
      1) Yes, I totally miss looking at myself in mirrors! It was a bit of a hobby, I now realize. Sometimes I even used my reflection almost as a companion, particularly on days when I worked at home.
      2) I am 99% sure that I'll have a different perspective on myself once the project is over…. I think habitus in it's strictest sense doesn't change (mainly because Bourdieu typically discusses it as something learned in childhood, etc. etc.) but I know that our brains are good at learning new pathways for thinking and behavior, as long as we practice these new pathways. That's what I'm doing this year! If nothing else, I'll have a stronger identity as an activist instead of victim.
      3) I am not as familiar with Lacan as I am with Cooley and Goffman, but I do sense some of what you describe. That said, I have always sensed that modern issues with self-objectification have less to do with mirrors and more to do with our mass media, which allows us to compare our reflections to absolutely impossible standards. Think about it: how powerful could mass media images be if we didn't have mirrors to compare ourselves to them? How much more benign would mirrors be without these impossible standards? Food for thought….

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