The mirror. It is a powerful thing. It not only a reflection of our physical appearance, it is a reflection of the way that we see ourselves as a whole. When you look in the mirror what is the first thing you see? Is it your eyes? Is it your smile? Is it your tummy? Is it your hair?
When I was a child I was a little obsessed with the mirror. I had this real fascination with looking at myself in the mirror. One of my favourite things to do was blast music and dance in front of the mirror. I would sing my lungs out and just be so happy. Often that was why I would take so long in the bathroom…. As time went on and I grew up I no longer had that relationship with the mirror. It became the place for me to pick out every imperfection of my body. I no longer saw my eyes first, my attention was immediately drawn to my stomach and my bum.
Having a shower was a horrifying experience. I actually developed a way I could go into the bathroom with my head down, get undressed, have a shower, dry myself, get out and changed before I had a chance to look at my naked body. I feel so sad thinking about that today. My beautiful body just wanted love and I couldn’t give it to her.
My mum introduced me to a book written by Louise Hay when I wasn’t well called “You Can Heal Your Life”. Louise Hay was an author, soulful teacher, healer, artist and one of my biggest inspirations. She believed that love could heal anything. She taught me the importance of loving myself and how by loving yourself you can bring love into every facet of your life. Much of her teachings were by of affirmations. Louise shares that an affirmation is any thought that we have or any words that we speak. The way we think and the things we say are very often habitual. If we can train our minds to think positively then much of our lives will be positive as that is what we will attract. These positive thoughts can help us develop inner joy and boost our self-esteem. Imagine how different you would feel if you looked in the mirror at the start of the day and instead of looking away we looked ourselves dead in the eye and said “you are beautiful.” Louise believes that the best way to start loving yourself is to do some “mirror work.”
“The mirror reflects back to you the feelings you have about yourself. It makes you immediately aware of where you are resisting and where you are open and flowing. It clearly shows you what thoughts you will need to change if you want to have a joyous and fulfilling life.” – Louise Hay.
Mirror work is going to a mirror and looking at yourself and saying positive affirmations to yourself. I started doing this practice a couple of years ago and at the start I hated it. My eyes immediately went to the wrong places. I was critical of myself. I was disappointed that I wasn’t positive enough. I would get frustrated for saying that I liked my body and not meaning it. That was my problem. I thought that just standing there and saying the affirmations was all I had to do to love myself. It didn’t work that way.
Everyone has a different mirror experience and reason that they are doing the practice. For some people they need confidence to stand up to someone so they will stand in front of the mirror and practice expressing how they feel. Others are insecure in their relationships so they say positive things about their loved one. For me it was my body. I would go in front of the mirror and say “you look beautiful today,” “your eyes are lovely,” “I love that my body is there for me every day.” But I didn’t really feel the love.
“The more you use mirrors for complimenting yourself, approving of yourself, and supporting yourself during difficult times, the deeper and more enjoyable your relationship with yourself will become.” – Louise Hay.
They key with mirror work is CONSISTENCY. You have to do it EVERY SINGLE DAY. I have shared this practice with a few people and they always say “it didn’t work.” I will then ask “how many times did you do it?” and they will reply “a couple of days.” That was not enough. Everyone feels really insecure and vulnerable at the start. We have a bit of a culture that those who love themselves have a ‘big head’ and ‘think to highly of themselves.’ But I honestly believe there is a difference between being arrogant and narcissistic and just loving and appreciating yourself.
The mirror practice alone doesn’t do it. It needs to be done in conjunction with self-care. First off, if you are going to the mirror and saying these positive affirmations about your body and then leaving the mirror and training like crazy to burn off the chocolate you ate last night, you are doing something wrong. The approach needs to be HOLLISTIC. For things that are worth having there is never a quick fix. This is where self-care practices come into play.
Developing self-care practices is challenging if you are a very routine based person. I used to be extremely regimented. My day would be planned out to the minute. The thought of fitting something else into my perfectly planned day was so stressful. It took a lot to get out of my comfort zone. To be honest at the time I didn’t really know myself. I didn’t really know what I liked to do anymore; I had lost touch with my deeper self. I decided to start small and try out a bunch of different things to see what I liked. I changed the classes I attended at the gym, tried some new recipes, started going for walks, went to different coffee shops. By doing these things I met new people. These people would challenge my thoughts, inspire me and open my eyes to different lifestyles and realities. I also started to recognise the things that I didn’t like as much. What I could tolerate in a relationship. What was important to me in a friendship, and the kind of friend I wanted to be.
I realised through my period of self-discovery that I really enjoy yoga; that I love to cook; that I like being with family; that I no longer wanted to be a lawyer; that I want to be in a job where I help people; that I wanted to find a partner; that I don’t need to be friends with everyone; and that I don’t need to say ‘yes’ to everything. These realisations in conjunction with the daily affirmations really transformed my life and the way I think of myself as a person.
For people that I don’t know me personally I do come across as someone who is quite confident and secure in my own skin. This is true on the most part. Those of you who know me behind the scenes will know that I am actually quite a nervous and self-conscious person. I am a perfectionist by nature and get really uneasy when things don’t go to plan. I am the furthest thing from perfect and I never want to give anyone the wrong impression. I do want to say, however, that I am always learning and growing.
My major insecurity has always been my body. I grew up in a household where ‘watching what you eat’ was normal and where ‘does this make me look fat’ and ‘have I put on weight’ were just daily conversation topics and phrases. Sometimes I didn’t even think it was possible to like my body. I had this preconceived idea of what people EXPECTED my body to look like and I was afraid that I would never meet that expectation. Through my journey I have discovered that is so far from the truth.
You need to be disciplined when it comes to mirror talk. It can’t be something you do just for the sake of it. You need to truly take the TIME to do it. You have to stare at body parts you don’t like, you have to say things you wouldn’t usually have the confidence to say. It is all part of the WORK. I found that the more I starred at my tummy the more I liked it. At the start my hatred grew stronger but overtime something shifted. It was no longer just some cushioning (or ‘adipose tissue’ for the bio nerds out there) around my abdomen. It was the beautiful memories of eating nonnas lasagne surrounded by family; it was the amazing cake my friend made when I went over for dinner; it was the nights of endless conversation over gelati with my boyfriend when we first started dating. I started to love what I saw and what it represents. LOVE. My body is my temple and I treat her with love with what I fuel her with (nutrition) and how I move her (exercise). When I am not eating and exercising I am nourishing her with positive words because if what I am thinking isn’t kind to my body then why bother eating healthy and exercising at all.
I found that when I started thinking positively every part of my life began to change. My energy was no longer wasted on negative self-talk and mentally planning my next meal. I could think about fun things to do with family, what movie I could go see on the weekend, what I could write about to share with you guys. I could focus on my studies without being distracted. I could sit and enjoy a bowl of pasta with my family and be present in the conversation and not imagining each piece of penne going to my thighs.
If I think of the people in my life today and the things I can do now I feel FREE. I have been able to bring back personality characteristics I had when I was a child that I became insecure about. I have found like-minded people to be friends with. I have a stronger bond than ever with my sister and my brother (when we aren’t bickering). I can openly talk to my parents. I have a beautiful relationship with my boyfriend who I know I can be completely myself with. That to me is incredible.
Self-love and acceptance is a journey. My current thing I am working on is assertiveness. My mirror practice is dedicated to building self-confidence and being able to stand up to people about what I think and believe. It is not easy. I am being consistent with it in the mirror but actually executing in my daily life is definitely challenging me. I have decided to start small and stand up to my sister if she doesn’t ask before borrowing something (she very assertively argues straight back and points out that I didn’t return her jacket so we are even… fair play) but I think it is working.
I want to share ten of my favourite Louise Hay affirmations I like to say to myself everyday:
1. Life is very simple. What I give out comes back to me. Today I choose to give love.
2. My partner is the love of my life. We adore each other.
3. I now deserve love, romance, and joy – and all the good that life has to offer me.
4. I am safe in all my relationships, and I give and receive lots of love.
5. I love my body.
6. I bless my food with love.
7. I am healthier than I have ever been.
8. I appreciate my glorious body.
9. I forgive myself for not treating my body well in the past.
10. Life is good, and I enjoy living it.
No person is perfect and I believe that we are always learning. I don’t think there will ever be a time when every part of my life is picture perfect. I see beauty in the learning. I love looking back on the person I was and how I am now. It makes me excited for the person I will someday evolve into. I encourage everyone to jump in front of the mirror today and give thanks for the life you have. For the people that you share life with. For the beautiful and strong body you have. For the sun rising. For the food you eat every day. Life is a gift and every day I am thankful for the opportunity to live it how I please.
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk and peace activist.