When you see your reflection in the mirror, what thoughts arise?
Are you critical or do you feel admiration, gratitude, or love?
If you’re anything like me, the thoughts were not very kind when I saw myself. I was bullied for my appearance as a child and internalized a lot of those voices, reflecting them back onto myself whenever I met my reflection.
Even now, it’s easy to go down old pathways as they’ve had a lot more traction than my newfound voice of self-love and compassion towards myself.
Self-compassion is a potent ingredient for healing and restoring a sense of balance within.
Shifting out of that hypercritical voice and into one of unconditional love has been a necessary path of my journey to wellness and wholeness.
It’s a practice that can also be met with resistance, especially if the opposite is what is familiar.
One way to forge the way forward into self-compassion is through mirror work.
Mirror work can support feeling self-love and embodied safety.
Author Louise Hay spoke of the healing possibilities within mirror work and advocated for the practice. It might seem silly or strange, but the benefits of mirror work are real.
Mirror work involves looking at your reflection in a mirror, making eye contact, and repeating affirmations. The practice is most effective when done on a regular basis.
Research supports that affirmations can be helpful for creating shifts in mindset, changing behaviors or reactions, and even improving health.
This is because thoughts can hold a lot of power—especially the thoughts about the self.
Thoughts—specifically the feelings and beliefs attached to our thoughts—create neurochemistry. This chemistry can support or disrupt virtually any of the body’s functions through the nervous system.
The combination of affirmations with the visual of one’s reflection taps into
the power of mirror neurons.
A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires if an action is performed or if that action is simply witnessed but performed by another. So even if the affirmation is not authentically felt in the moment of speaking it, the neural pathways can still be activated in the perception of the experience.
When negative self-talk is what is most familiar, mirror work can feel uncomfortable at first.
You may be carving out brand new neural-pathways to self-love and there may be resistance or a pull to what is more comfortable or familiar instead. The practice can also serve to bring awareness to limiting beliefs or areas of resistance.
However, through practice, new pathways will gain their power over the old narrative.
Neurons that fire together, wire together.
Tips to get started
1. Set a goal
Example: “I will do this 5 minutes every day”
What kind of time commitment feels supportive for you? You can start small + increase towards a long-term goal.
2. Choose your affirmation(s)
Example: “I love myself. I am whole.”
What qualities do you strive to embody or affirm? If it feels like too far a stretch at present, how else can you build towards it?
3. Repeat your affirmation (with feeling)
Example: For “I love myself”, embracing yourself in a hug can reinforce the feeling.
The impact of the affirmation will be experienced more when more feeling is attached to the sentiment. However, the practice can still work without that component.
If you’re interested in more tips and information about mirror work, check out Louise Hay’s book on Mirror Work.