Mirror Mirror

Mirror Work for Self-Love and Acceptance

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Everyone knows this line from Snow White. The Queen wanted to be the fairest. When she wasn’t, she poisoned beautiful Snow White. Most of us do not believe ourselves to be the fairest, but quite the opposite.

As February is widely known as the month of love, let’s focus on self-love. Often people, especially parents, tend to give a lot to their partners and their children and less to themselves. Sometimes it is challenging for us to silence the inner critic that speaks harshly to ourselves in a way we would never speak to a loved friend or family member. This is where mirror work can help.

Many people have a complicated relationship with the mirror. We don’t always like to look at our reflections. We may find it confronting. Taylor Swift even sings about it in her song Anti-hero: “I'll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror.” Why is it so difficult for some of us to gaze with love–or affection–into the mirror? 

Mirror work, a term coined by transformational teacher and self-love expert Louise Hay, founder of Hay House Publishing, and the author of You Can Heal Your Life and Mirror Work: 21 Days to Heal Your Life, is the practice of looking at yourself in the mirror and saying nice things to yourself. You can start with something simple. “I like myself. I am doing the best I can today.” Or even, “Hey sweetie! You look great!” One of my favorites is, “I love, accept, and forgive myself fully and completely.” Mirror work combines well with affirmations, which are positive phrases said in the present tense as if they are already true. The practice of saying affirmations combined with mirror work can increase the benefits of both practices.

The objective of mirror work is to help people silence their inner critic and believe the positive words they are telling themselves while looking at themselves in the mirror.

Mirror work can help with self-esteem issues and can achieve results such as changing a negative body image to a more positive one. Hay developed the practice to increase self-compassion and self-love as part of the daily activities detailed in her 1984 book You Can Heal Your Life.

Although it can be confronting and challenging, it is important to practice mirror work regularly to reap the benefits. Set a daily goal of saying affirmations while looking at your reflection in the mirror and seeing how it makes you feel. Start with two minutes a day and work up to five.

As a yoga teacher, I have included mirror work in my classes with clients. Often the first experience with the exercise is somewhat uncomfortable, but with practice, it becomes more natural. When resistance comes up, ask yourself what you are feeling, allow the emotion to be present, and then release it. It may be rooted in a past experience and just needs to be acknowledged and felt before you can let it go.

Here are some simple guidelines for how to create a mirror work practice:

  1. Make sure you will be alone and uninterrupted so you can let your guard down and allow emotions to surface

  2. Try to do it for a set amount of time, such as five minutes every day

  3. Allow yourself to feel and process whatever emotions show up

  4. Keep a journal to record your feelings, reactions, and experiences

  5. Start with less confronting or difficult phrases, and as you become comfortable increase the intensity

Mirror work can be used in tandem with inner-child work because many of the negative limiting beliefs that play in our minds are the result of something we were told as a child that is not true about us or our life. If something negative comes up during mirror work, we can challenge it and write about the feelings in the journal, thus freeing us from that limiting belief. 

Inner child work is an approach to recognizing and healing childhood trauma. We all experience traumas as children which affect the way we experience the world. As adults, we can reconnect with the child we once were, in order to heal. Mirror work is one way to help facilitate that process, in addition to talk therapy, meditation exercises, and setting healthy boundaries.

Here are some ideas for affirmations to use with our mirror work. I am strong. I am capable. I can do this. I believe in myself. I know my worth. I can do hard things. My life is abundant. I am happy and healthy in mind, body, and spirit. I believe in myself. I am kind and compassionate. I deserve love and abundance.  I am doing my best. I am smart. I am brave. I am powerful. 

In the words of Hay, “Doing mirror work is one of the most loving gifts you can give yourself.”

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