We all have parts of us that we wish we could change. A nip here, a tuck there, fuller hips and lips. And it is not just all physical. We have emotional hang-ups as well. While many of these hang-ups were developed during our childhood, media also played a role in digging those deeper, creating wider rifts.
And now, it’s almost as if the media is selling us self-love back to us. Something that we were born with, in the first place. But it has connoted self-love with outward things like going to the salon for a spa day or chilling at home with a face mask on and shopping online. While we embrace all these practices (and anything that helps you along the way to loving yourself), we firmly believe self-love is much deeper than that.
Here is what we will cover in this article:
- What is self-love?
- How to love yourself.
- What is mirror work?
- Why practice mirror work?
- How to practice mirror work?
- Advantages of mirror work
What is self-love?
Self-love is taking the time to look at ourselves deeply in the mirror with the so-called “flaws” and deciding to love ourselves despite what comes up. Self-love is developing a dialog with ourselves that is respectful, kind, and uplifting. It involves finally shutting down the critical self-talk, for good. Self-love also involves actively confronting our emotions, insecurities, and thoughts and evolving through them.
How to love yourself.
There are several ways to practice self-love, but Mirror Work, developed by Louise Hay is one of the most effective ways. It is easy to incorporate into your busy routine, it's cost-effective (you only need a mirror) and you can do it anytime, anywhere. However, we recommend a place that gives you some privacy.
If you haven't done deep work, and loving yourself is a priority, we recommend you start with the mirror technique.
What is mirror work?
Mirror work is simple, but not easy. Just like any other self-love practice, it requires patience and courage. It is based on the principle that our thoughts (conscious or subconscious) shape our lives. And our self-talk will influence who we become over time. And since we are critical of ourselves all the time, this technique requires that we take some time in front of the mirror and start a positive dialog with ourselves. It requires that we invest in the relationship with ourselves just like any other relationship.
A typical mirror work session will involve sitting with a mirror and just looking at yourself without judgment or criticism. If negative thoughts come up, let them pass. Once you are comfortable with looking at yourself in the mirror without judgment, positive affirmations are added to the practice to develop a positive dialog.
This practice helps us shed self-criticism and develop a better relationship with ourselves.
This is one of the core teachings of the renowned author and teacher, Louise Hay. In her book, she advocates using the mirror technique to solve almost any problem in life.
Why practice mirror work?
All our internal dialogue, that chatter we hear in our minds, represents a flow of messages addressed to our subconscious. These messages, in turn, create thoughts, habits, and behaviors. But the problem is, most of us have a negative self-dialog and we don’t even know it. We are feeding our subconsciousness with negativity. In many ways, we are our own worst enemy.
If you are a person that hates criticism, then it's likely because you are so critical of yourself that there is no way your soul can tolerate anyone else criticizing you. It's nothing you haven't heard before, and it almost makes your deepest insecurities real. And since you are not aware of the negative self-talk, you lash out at the person criticizing you.
When you practice positive affirmations with mirror work, you induce healing thoughts and ideas, which helps develop confidence, self-esteem, inner serenity, and joy. When you talk aloud to yourself in front of the mirror, the mirror reflects the feelings we have for ourselves, and it makes us immediately understand the areas we resist and the areas we are open and fluid about.
For most people, it's hard to stand in front of a mirror and face themselves. It is such a foreign concept that it is not even in the realm of possibility. But the truth is, a mirror can be a friend when used in the right way. Using the mirror technique can transform negative self-talk into a positive one. It takes very little to say to one's reflection: "Hello, beauty" or: "You are in great shape today!" or: "Today will be a beautiful day. I love you". However, it takes great courage to look in ourselves and mean It. You likely won't be able to do that in the beginning. But over time, we start believing ourselves as we continue with the practice.
How to practice mirror work.
There are many ways to practice mirror work, but we focus on two ways. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to picking the method you want to begin with. Choose the one that you most resonate with. Or even try out both methods and see what makes you feel better. Let’s dive into the first method.
Technique 1: Mirror work with Mindfulness Meditation
The first technique is essentially a mindfulness meditation performed in front of a mirror. It is based on the 3 principles of mindfulness, which form the basis of this practice.
The three principles are:
- Attention to the now: Start by sitting or standing comfortably in front of a mirror. It can be a full-length mirror or a hand mirror. Breathe deeply and look into your eyes for 2 minutes. Don’t do anything or say anything. Stay present and observe. It is normal to feel teary-eyed and emotional even in the first step.
- Opening of awareness: In this step, become aware of your thoughts. If negative or judgmental thoughts come up, then say a simple sentence, “thank you for sharing” and then let them pass. In this step just be aware of what you are experiencing. And then let it go. Many tough emotions and feelings will come up when you do this in front of the mirror. Often, you will notice things that you don’t like about yourself. Thank yourself for sharing it and then let it pass. In this step, you are increasing the awareness of your self-talk and learning to let it go, consciously, instead of embracing that negative thought subconsciously.
- Sending good intentions: In this step, you will start adding in good intentions and thoughts. Many times, self-affirmations don’t work for those of us who are jaded. If you are that person then this practice will work better for you. In this step, you start sending good intentions to yourself. So, what is the difference between intentions and affirmations? Intentions start with “May I” and affirmations start with “I am”. A subtle difference but a powerful one for those of us who just can affirm something we don’t believe in yet. Here are some intentions you can begin with:
“May I always see the best in myself.”
“May I learn to get let go of the past.”
“May I have a wonderful day today.”
“May I learn to accept me.”
“May I see the best in myself and others.”
“May I talk to myself positively.”
Note that these are not questions, even though they may sound like one. It is a statement of possibility. A positive possibility. It is a blessing to yourself.
Technique 2: Mirror work with affirmations
This technique relies on positive affirmations and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. While the first technique is passive, this one is more active. Both are great approaches to mirror work, simply different.
- Before you begin your practice, decide on the areas of life you’d like to work on. Make a list of affirmations that resonate with you. Start with just one. Something simple. Try to memorize this affirmation before you start the mirror work.
- Once your prep work is done, sit in a space that is comfortable and void of distractions. Next, look into the mirror and gaze at yourself. Start breathing deeply to calm the mental chatter. Take deep breaths for 2 minutes.
- As you develop a breathing rhythm, repeat the affirmation to yourself while breathing in (inaudibly). Let go of any resistance as you breathe out. Do this for 15 breaths. This will help you in letting go of the resistance to the affirmation as you breathe out and make it familiar.
- Once you have let go of the resistance and developed familiarity, it is time to say your affirmation aloud. An experiment by Nicola Petrocchi and his colleagues showed that when we say affirmations out loud in front of a mirror, it has a much deeper impact on us than just thinking about them. So please don’t skip this step. When you say the affirmation, pause for a few seconds and take in the meaning of what you are saying. Let it sit with you. Say the affirmation aloud 15 more times.
Repeat this practice for 30 days with the same affirmation. Note that while we are working with just one affirmation, it is affecting the very core of our being. Because it is the first time, we are actively trying to define ourselves instead of believing the negative chatter in our minds. So be patient with yourself. Give this one affirmation sometime to do its magic. After you practice this for 30 days, feel free to add in more affirmations if you’d like. If you feel that just the one is working, stick to it for as long as you like.