Reflections on mirror work
“Magic mirror in my hand, who is the fairest in the land?”
Snow White’s stepmother asked this very question to her mirror every morning. Albeit she wore a crown and was named a queen, she was powerless before that small piece of metal in her hand. The mirror’s awaited reply determined her thoughts, her feelings about herself and the actions that ensued.
We all have a small mirror in our mind that reflects back to us our perception of ourselves. We may not always have a specific question, but we all have an inner monologue. These silent chatters form our daily affirmations, and they either encourage us or discourage us.
Louise Hay, best selling author and founder of Hay House publishing, has long been promoting a healing technique called ‘mirror work’. Its aim is to improve our inner dialogue by becoming aware of it. When we look into the mirror, we take the lead. The mirror doesn’t get to tell us how we perceive ourselves. We state it, we gradually believe it and, as a result, we see our life change for the better.
In this post, I describe mirror work briefly and share tips that may help to practice it successfully. Some of these suggestions could be particularly helpful for those experiencing stubborn resistance with affirmations or mirror work.
Why mirror work?
The most important relationship we’ll ever experience is the one we share with our own self. It is the foundation to our experience of life. It not only affects how we relate to others… it also influences our life decisions. It is thus a very important component in the unfolding of our destiny. Mirror work focuses on self-love, which is the stepping stone to a life richer in all aspects.
This technique is specifically beneficial for those experiencing issues with self-confidence, self-doubt, self-esteem and self-worth. Instead of looking for love and validation in others, this daily exercise helps to reaffirm our worthiness, the worthiness of our dreams and of our life. Ultimately, it helps us realise that we can choose to be our own most loyal, loving and supportive companion.
Once you have determined your affirmations, there are three steps in mirror work:
1/ Love yourself
2/ Feel your affirmations
3/ Think your affirmations
Once you have determined your affirmations, there are three steps in mirror work:
STEP 1 – Love Yourself!
I was a young student, visiting a classmate in the studio he was renting . There was a U2 song on the radio. I said: “I love U2!” He froze, and finally asked: “What?” So I repeated: “I love U2!” He was still frozen, so I specified: “U2! I like their music…” and pointing at his radio: “It’s a good song!” With alarming relief, he smiled: “U2! I thought you were saying that you loved me too, and I was wondering: when did I ever tell her I loved her?”
“I love you!” These three words can create a feeling of blissful joy, of relief, but also of embarrassment and pressure… It can be perceived as sweet and as unexpectedly light as a feather that fell off an angel’s wing! Or, it can be seen as shocking and as heavy as the stack of metal left after a very serious car crash.
It is with these very three words that Louise Hay proposes to start our relationship with our reflection in the mirror. In effect, it sets the tone for how that relationship is meant to evolve. Through our mirror work, we release self-judgement, self-doubt and any other sets of thoughts that act daily as assailants to our well-being. We replace it instead with unconditional love, support, compassion and total acceptance for who we are.
Why can’t I say it?
Saying “I love you” to their reflection is challenging for some people. Like all the affirmations done in front of the mirror, becoming aware of how various statements make us feel is a step forward on our healing journey. It helps us realise our comfort zone, but also our blockages and areas of resistance. A declaration of love to our reflection in the mirror can understandably create a fear of the ridicule at first, but this can dissipate quickly. However, if the uneasiness comes from a fear of rejection, then it might take a while longer to overcome.
Whether it is an estranged father or daughter, or someone for whom we’ve fallen… a declaration of love is nerve-racking when we think that the feeling might not be reciprocated. However, saying “I love you” to a baby or to a pet might feel easier because we don’t expect rejection in return.
The same is true with our reflection. It is difficult to say “I love you” if, on some level, we don’t think it’s true.
Who do I love anyway?
The inner child! Our bodies grow and we become adults. We think the child we once were is long gone, but this is not quite true. The child lives in us forever. When we forget it, the inner child may feel abandoned, hurt, or resentful… To reconnect with the inner child is to connect with the most innocent, instinctive and vulnerable part of our being. To love that part is both to take responsibility for it and to allow it to express itself. We thus become a more complete person.
If stating to your reflection that you love it proves to be difficult, it might help to find a picture of yourself as a child. Talking to the picture, you reassure the child that they are loved. Then, you look at yourself in the mirror. You recognise that, beyond what your direct eyesight sees, the child is in your reflection, looking back at you. You then talk to the mirror, like you did to the picture. This could gradually help you to say “I love you” to the mirror with ease.
Another technique is what I refer to as softening an affirmation. It is described below.
STEP 2 – Feel your affirmations
You could affirm wherever and whenever: while you’re jogging, washing the dishes or taking a shower, etc… However, the act of stopping whatever you are doing, staring at yourself in the mirror and stating an affirmation helps to affirm with complete and total presence. This makes it a very powerful way to practice affirmations.
That said, the most important aspect of an affirmation is that it must connect with your heart, not your mind. The mind will say the words while still considering the current reality. It will do the mirror work robotically and merely out of discipline. The heart, on the other hand, can feel the possibility for change. It can anticipate the new reality being created.
A good method to help you feel the shift is to improvise a conversation between you and your reflection. You can start by affirming in the first person and then, the second person. This can be followed by adding congratulatory remarks and an acknowledgement of support.
Another method to bring more awareness to your statements is to breathe! Close your eyes (if it helps) and breathe in softly the suggestion of a new experience into your life. For instance, you could say “I am pregnant!” several times. At first, you could observe your reflection stating the affirmation. Then, you could affirm again, this time breathing in and out softly between the statements. This truly helps to be present and to affirm with consciousness.
On the other hand, when you are letting go of a feeling or experience, breathe out as forcefully as needed to feel the release: “I let go of my fear of failure.” Assert this, then breathe out forcefully until you feel yourself free of this fear.
Example of mirror work
Using the two methods described in the previous paragraph, here is an example of mirror work in action. This is an example of how to improvise and use breath in order to feel a desired shift in our thoughts.
Example of an affirmation in the first person:
“I am forgiving Catherine and I am freeing myself from any pain related to her actions.” [breathe out the feelings being released]
Stating it then in the second person:
“You are forgiving Catherine and you are freeing yourself from any pain related to her actions.” [breathe out the feelings being released]
Adding a congratulatory remark:
“I am really proud of how you are letting this go.”
Then, acknowledging the support given through the congratulatory remark:
“Thank you. Yes, I am completely forgiving and letting go! And I feel better now… [breathe in and out softly to bring further awareness to this new feeling, then confirm] Yes, I am feeling better.”
Observe any changes in your facial expression. Are you looking more relaxed? Is there a slight smile forming on your lips? Notice any positive changes in your expression or in your feelings. This helps to realise fully that a change has occurred.
When we can’t state an affirmation, Louise Hay proposes that we precede that affirmation by stating: “I am willing to…” In other words, we soften the affirmation until the day we can say it as it is. Stating daily: “I am willing to be healthy and full of energy” one day becomes: “I am healthy and full of energy.” It may take a few days, a week, a month or longer, but every time it becomes easier to say it because we gradually recognise it to be true. As this recognition settles, our reality alters. Life finally catches up with the affirmation.
Other phrases that can soften an affirmation are:
I have the potential to be healthy and full of energy
I have the capacity to be healthy and full of energy.
I am willing to tune into my ability to be healthy and full of energy.
I am willing to believe in my power to be healthy and full of energy.
This is more than softening…
The following technique is more than softening an affirmation. I refer to this method as massaging an affirmation. We are very gently relaxing it into our psyche so to eventually project it in our life.
So here’s my rough guideline on how to massage an affirmation:
Even though [state reality as perceived]. I connect with the part of me that sees a different possibility. I am now releasing reality as I see it presently [Breathe out as if you are clearing your system]. I am creating space for a new experience. I am willing to believe that [affirmation]. I am grateful for [affirmation].
Example: I love my job and my income is increasing exponentially!
Even though I don’t like my job. Even though no-one else is calling me in for an interview. Even though it looks bad and I’m losing hope. Even though I’m about to give up…
I connect with the part of me that knows how strong and resourceful I am. Even when I am sad, scared and vulnerable, there is a part of me that is strong and stable. I connect with that part now… [breathe in and out softly]
I am releasing the reality as I see it. It is of no use to me… [breathe out forcefully]. As I completely clear this reality, I create space for a new one. I am now connecting with a new experience…
I am willing to believe that I am stepping into a job I love [breathe in and out softly]. That job pays abundantly. Yes, I am willing to believe that I love my job and that my income is increasing. I am enjoying this step up in my career. I feel great about my new income. I am so grateful for this experience!
If done right, we should feel at the end of this exercise more hopeful. Gradually, it becomes easier to state the affirmation directly, without a need to massage or soften it.
STEP 3: Think your affirmations
Some people claim ‘mirror work’ doesn’t work! As can be seen in this clip, Louise Hay explains that although we might state our affirmations three times a day in front of the mirror, we may follow it with hundreds of negative affirmations throughout the day.
For example, we could say “I love my job and I am earning a great income!” in front of the mirror every morning and evening. But in the middle of the day, at various times, our inner monologue states: “I hate this job… This stupid machine never works… I always have to chase these guys… I’m so fed up… How am I supposed to work, the phone keeps ringing… I get too many emails… I don’t have time… Four more hours to go…” When we talk to our colleagues, we may say: “My computer is too slow, it’s embarrassing in front of the clients… I’ve had such a rough day… I’m tired and it’s only Tuesday… I’m so glad I’m going home!”
When doing mirror work, it is important to think our affirmations. By this, I mean that we discipline our mind to stay centred on our positive affirmations throughout the day. At the beginning, it requires mental discipline. With time, it grows into a habit… and that’s when mirror work becomes really effective.
Once you start mirror work, you’ll never look at a mirror the same way. If you are avoiding yourself, diverting your eyes so they don’t meet your reflection, you’ll notice it. If you have a habit of not looking at yourself when you wake up, you’ll wonder why and glance at yourself… Those days when you think you don’t look good, you’ll smile to yourself. You’ll reassure yourself as you would a dear friend.
This is exactly the point of mirror work. It is to remind you to be a kind and supportive friend to yourself. So face the mirror to create an empowering self-relationship! The strength of it can be the key to living a more peaceful life.
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