Accepting yourself as you are is complicated. Loving yourself as you are can be even harder. Learn how to get closer to self acceptance and self love with one tool.
Healing ourselves emotionally is often seen as a rational practice of talking through our feelings, understanding the roots of our trauma, and learning how to react better to our triggers. For me, being healed is reaching my ‘best self’… until that point, I can love who I am, but I am still constantly working to improve. Thinking about this, it doesn’t sound like real love. I don’t have this approach with other people I love. I’m not trying to change everyone around me. I love and admire them for who they are.
I decided to sit in on Katherina’s workshop as a participant rather than a facilitator. The topic we’re exploring is The Power of You. I thought it would be fitting as I wasn’t brave enough to host my own workshop. Perhaps I needed to find some power within myself first. The entire workshop was a deeply moving experience. The sense of community and vulnerability Katherina created in the room through her practices and energy was something I’d never been part of before. One practice that had a massive impact on me was mirror work. This is a technique used to develop a more profound sense of self-love, even if you see yourself as an imperfect ‘work in progress.’ I am to heal, not by actively fixing anything, but simply by observing and accepting.
I’ve looked in the mirror plenty. My experience is usually either negative or neutral. I see the blemishes, the extra pockets of fat, the bad posture. I’m not alone in this. I know we are inherently self-critical. Occasionally, when my mirror gazing is positive, it’s because I’ve managed to transform myself into the desired look. I.e., I look cool or ‘hot’, because I’ve spent hours picking outfits, fluffing hair, and blending eyeshadows. Despite believing that I love myself, I’ve never looked at myself with a purely loving and accepting gaze. This is the goal of mirror work: to look at yourself as you are and embrace what you see in the same way you would admire someone you love entirely, and through this act, deepen the love for yourself.
I’m in a room full of women who are all tasked with the same objective. To gaze into your own eyes. Truly look into them and at yourself for ten minutes. Then, have an open and honest conversation with yourself for another ten minutes. Lastly, speak loving affirmations that arise from this conversation into each eye for five minutes per eye. It feels awkward. I’m looking at myself, and I’m trying not to focus on the flaws. I used to have bad skin, and I’m irritated by the stubborn scars on my cheeks. I shake the thought. I wish my eyebrows were symmetrical. I shake the thought. Are there wrinkles around my eyes? Do I need to do something about this? I shake the thought again. This is much harder than I thought.
I’m now staring directly into my eyes – and then through them – it’s surprisingly easy to ignore my physical self (much easier than it is to ignore my thoughts). That’s not the point either. I need to try harder. It becomes challenging to hold my own gaze. I feel guilty and sad. It’s like I’m looking at someone who’s been begging for acknowledgment for years, and I’ve ignored her. I’m looking at someone who feels invisible. I feel sorry for her. A few minutes in, when looking into my own eyes has finally become bearable, tears well up. I’m watching myself sob. I can hear everyone around me crying. I am not alone in this. I see myself in a way that I never have before. I’m just looking at what I am. I find myself softening, and I think I look sweet and gentle and kind of childlike. I sense innocence in my eyes. I feel I’ve been hard on myself, and this person in the mirror didn’t deserve such hardness.
My experience turned out to be one many of the women in the room shared. Initially, there was a lot of negative self-talk. When those thoughts quietened, I felt like I was genuinely seeing myself for the first time. I saw myself as a separate being from the one in my head with all the hurtful opinions. I saw myself as just a human being who has experienced pain, fear and hurt. I felt a level of empathy for myself that is so difficult to describe. This exercise was not at all what I expected. This simple practice created a shift within myself that I didn’t anticipate and allowed me to see myself in a way that talk therapy hasn’t.
I would highly recommend you try it. Be prepared to feel afraid and uncomfortable at first, but the longer you sit in silence with yourself, the more you will form a vision of yourself as a [real] person worthy of love. The beautiful thing about this is that you can do it alone without fear of anyone watching or judging your experience. Since doing this exercise, I have been able to easily tap into that perception of myself. This is something I will carry with me forever. It did make me feel more powerful, not by creating more power within myself, but by seeing the power that has existed all along. I can look into a mirror with kindness and love – perhaps not immediately, but I get to that feeling much faster than I ever had in the past. I can shorten the practice, and look at the mirror for five minutes before getting ready in the mornings, simply to check in and remind myself that the woman in the mirror is wonderful and worthy of love, softness, and kindness.
For our practical guide to doing Mirror Work on your own send an email to email@example.com