“I love you.” I cannot tell you how many times I croon these three words to my infant son in a single day. I can say “I love you,” with ease in the morning to my husband before he leaves for work. Hell, I even tell my dogs how much I love them on a daily basis. But to tell myself “I love you?” I have to admit – my first thought was this sounds a little narcissistic. And my second thought was even worse. “Why should you love yourself?”
Mirror work – also known as the mirror exercise, mirror technique and mirror gazing – is a powerful tool for building self-love and one that I have to admit sounded too silly and too easy to work.
“Most of us when we look in a mirror we criticize ourselves, make fun of ourselves. We say derogatory things to ourselves. It’s a habit. The mirror, as small as it may be, can really help you connect with yourself,” says Louise Hay, author and self-help advocate.
The idea is simple; you stand in front of a mirror, stare deeply into your own eyes, and say to yourself, “I love you.”
There are all sorts of variations to this practice. You can repeat those words over and over again to yourself, or you can add positive affirmations like “I am enough,” or “I am beautiful in my own skin.” You can talk to yourself like you would an old friend – positive self-talk is the key to this practice.
I decided to start with the mirror exercise first thing in the morning because they say that’s when your mind is the most susceptible. First thing in the morning, by the way for me, meant disheveled bed head, pajamas, and no makeup.
I stood in front of our full-length mirror and took a breath, already starting to criticize my pores, untamed baby hairs, and saggy chest. All that in just a matter of seconds!
“I love you,” I whispered, not in the mood to be overheard by my husband and having to explain myself. “I love you,” I say again a little louder this time, looking into my eyes. I cocked my head and made a dumb face at myself. This seems silly. I repeat those words a few more times before deciding to tell myself just what I love, or at least like, about myself.
“I love your soft, fine hair.”
“I love the shape of your ears.”
“I love the multi-colors of your eyes.”
“I love that you don’t take yourself too seriously.”
“I love that, even though you sort of hate the way your breasts look right now, you are putting your son’s health first by nourishing him with them.”
While it was nice to acknowledge some of my surface traits (like my hair and eyes), what struck the biggest chord with me was when I dug a little deeper and looked at what my body does for me and for others.
“I love that not only do you have cute ears, but those ears help you to hear the world around you, like your son’s belly laugh!”
“I love that not only are your eyes a fun kaleidoscope of colors, but they also help you see and navigate a beautiful world!”
I left our mirror feeling a little goofy, but nonetheless happier with myself and ready to move forward with my day.
The goal of the mirror exercise is not to become self-centered or narcissistic, I realized, it’s about being thankful for your body and developing a healthy self-perception.
While I started off small with my exercise, I plan to continue on a daily schedule, moving first from loving my outside to then focusing on what’s inside.
Christine Wolkin is a freelance writer and writes for Allebach Photography. Learn more about our studio at Allebachphotography.com or by texting 610.539.6920.