In the movie Snow White, the queen asks her mirror who is the “fairest one of all.” The mirror breaks the bad news to her that there is someone much more beautiful than she.
Like the queen, most of us have bought the idea that we are not as beautiful, worthy of love, or as good as someone else. Capitalizing on our insecurities and lack of self-worth, advertisers tell us that if we were only richer or more beautiful, we’d be loved. Although we may know better in theory, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to gain recognition from others as a substitute for our lack of self-love. Yet, there is no substitute for really liking yourself. Even if the whole world applauds you, if you don’t feel good about yourself, it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that most people don’t feel good about themselves. Therefore, what’s needed is a practical and powerful way to grow our sense of self-worth. Fortunately, there is a method that can greatly nurture and enhance a person’s sense of self-esteem. I call it the Mirror Exercise (ME).
To do the Mirror Exercise, simply go to a mirror, (or find a hand held one), and look your self in the eyes. Notice what thoughts or feelings come up for you. Then, begin talking to your self out loud, as if you were talking to a really good friend. Tell the person in the mirror how much you care and appreciate him or her. Acknowledge what you’re proud of. Say things that the person in the mirror needs to hear in order to feel accepted and cared for. Imagine that you’re talking to a young, vulnerable child who needs to be encouraged. Here’s what your “conversation” might sound like:
“Hello Jonathan. How are you? You’ve been feeling pretty stressed lately, haven’t you? Well, you’ve been busy helping a lot of people. You need to remember to take care of yourself. You deserve it. You’ve worked hard. It’s amazing all the tasks you do. I’m proud of the fact that you’ve become a very giving person over the years. I appreciate how you’re really committed to helping others. I like you. You’re often a lot of fun to be with. Some of the stories you said last night at the party were really funny. I appreciate your sense of humor. You don’t have to try so hard to be liked—because you are liked. Not for what you do, but for who you are. I want you to know that you’re doing just fine. Allow yourself to relax more and just receive all the goodwill people feel towards you. I respect who you are, and I want you to know I love you.”
Although there is no formula for what to say during this exercise, it’s helpful if you steer clear of put-downs. If you notice you begin to think of negative judgments during the ME, tell those thoughts, “Thank you for sharing, but right now I’m committed to loving myself.” You may find this exercise difficult to do at first, but it becomes easier with practice. It’s common for negative thoughts to arise, especially when you are complementing yourself. As you practice this exercise, you’ll notice that the self-criticisms fade more into the background, and the self-appreciations are taken in at a deeper level. After awhile, you’ll begin to feel a deep love and compassion for the person in the mirror.
There are many variations to the basic ME that can be tried for different effects. For example, you may try to do this exercise completely naked in front of a full-length mirror. Most people are at war with their bodies, but the ME can help. By starting with specific parts of your body that you like, you can eventually get to accept every part of your anatomy. During this form of the Mirror Exercise, talk to the various parts of your body and try to develop a better relationship with them. For example, you might say, “Hello nose. As you know, you’re bigger than I would like you to be, but I am grateful for all the wonderful smells you send my way. I’m going to try to appreciate you more. You really do a great job. Thank you for adding to my life.”
If you have favorite affirmations you use for your growth, saying them while you look in the mirror is a way to “turbo-charge” their effect on you. The simple affirmation, “I am committed to loving you and taking care of you” is a powerful statement to say to yourself. Because the Mirror Exercise is so effective, there is often a lot of resistance to doing it. You may feel squeamish, silly, or stupid at first. In general, feelings of embarrassment or resistance are all signs that you could greatly benefit from this method. At first, the ME can bring to the surface how difficult it is for you to feel or express love for yourself. Yet with practice, those initial feelings of armoring will get peeled off like layers of an onion. You’ll soon be left with a loving relationship with yourself. When you look into the mirror, you’ll no longer hear a critical voice saying how you’re not good enough. Instead, you’ll appreciate that you are an absolutely perfect rendition of yourself.
Jonathan Robinson has written several bestseller books including, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Awakening Your Spirituality;” “The Experience of God,” “The Little Book of Big Questions;” and “Communication Miracles for Couples.” His latest book is called, “More Love, Less Conflict.” Jonathan also co-hosts the podcast “Awareness Explorers” with author Brian Tom O’Connor. This podcast focuses on revealing the easiest and most powerful practices for directly awakening to one’s true nature.
Through TV, live lectures and radio, Mr. Robinson has reached over 100 million people around the world. He is known for providing his audiences with immediately useful information presented in a fun and entertaining manner and he offers free audio downloads at his site FindingHappiness.com.