Being in a room covered in mirrors would make most people want to run and hide, but in the Student Center Ballrooms at Montclair State, students flocked to see hundreds of mirrors that told different stories: ones of hope, sadness and determination.
This week is Body Acceptance Week at Montclair State. Falling in conjunction with the nationally recognized Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Body Acceptance Week was created by the Office of Health Promotion to promote body positivity, explore beauty standards and help students connect to resources if they feel they are struggling with an eating disorder or excessive exercise habits.
To kickstart Body Acceptance Week at Montclair State, the Mirror Project ran from Tuesday to Thursday in the Student Center Ballrooms. The Mirror Project is an art exhibit that challenges students, faculty and staff to think about how they feel when they look in a mirror.
“We started Body Acceptance Week [in 2001] and it was just to make [students] reflect on [their] own thoughts and [their] own confidence level.” said Taylor Panczer, a graduate student receiving a masters in public health as well as an advocate working with the Office of Health Promotion. “The Mirror Project, in general, started with the question, ‘What do you see when you look in the mirror?’”
In years past, the students, faculty and staff who answered the question were the ones that wrote their answers on a mirror. This year, the Office of Health Promotion volunteers crafted the mirrors on display, but still let participants create their own mirrors on Wednesday, Feb. 24 during a Studio DIY session.
Dominique Douthit, a junior double-major in women and gender studies and communications, is a peer advocate who worked alongside the Office of Health Promotion to setup the Mirror Project. “The first part was recording all of the surveys that we got about asking people what they see in the mirror,” she said, “and, that was really hard, because you got some really terrible things, and you got some really great things. I did ones that were like, ‘I see a beautiful person’ and then, ‘I see someone really ugly.’”
Even though Body Acceptance Week began in 2001, the Mirror Project was not conceived until seven years later in 2008 as another way for participants to look deep inside themselves and past the reflection in the mirror to see who they truly are.
“[The Mirror Project] really helps people realize that everyone has insecurities and that everybody goes through similar feelings and emotions,” said Olivia Bartell, a sophomore journalism major. “I think [the project] is really going to help students realize that everyone is beautiful in their own, different way.”
“It gave me a chance to reflect on my own experiences when I look in the mirror,” said Douthit. “So I think it’s a really great opportunity for everyone to come in and look around and reflect on what other people said and kind of compare it to what they see in the mirror.”
“It’s really amazing,” continued Douthit. “You don’t really have anything else on campus that allows you to love your body the way it is.”
So, what do you see when you look in the mirror?