Who is it that’s looking back at you? Who do you think you see? Who would you like to see? Who are you afraid of seeing? We all have images of ourselves that play in our mind. But when we stand in front of a mirror, all bets are off. Who we see can have a profound effect on how we face others. It can drive us to our knees with shame of it can elevate and empower us to a mountain top with pride. It has everything to do with how we were trained to perceive ourselves from childhood.
When we see someone looking in the mirror for any length of time we tend to snap to a judgment about them. If it’s a quick look, they’re making sure that their appearance is clean and proper and we assume it’s for everyone else’s benefit. If they look just a little longer than we would, we begin to assume that they are feeding their vanity. The longer they look, the vainer we assume them to be. Odds are, that point of assumed vanity occurs differently for each of us depending on how much we have ourselves…or don’t.
For most of us who have some sense of pride, “reasonable” or not, we will tend to move toward a mirror as if to confirm to ourselves that our belief about how others see us is true. For those of us who are self-conscious and have little or no pride, we will tend to avoid mirrors like the plague as if we really don’t want to be reminded of how we see ourselves but, more importantly, how we believe others see us.
If you want to be honest about how you see yourself, observe your own behavior when you stand in front of a mirror. It will either confirm or deny what you tell yourself about how you believe you are perceived by others. Are you smiling? Hunched over? Backing up? Moving away out of its range quickly? Sometimes we have no idea and are surprised by who we see starring back at us. Either way, it’s a great self-check for how honest we are with ourselves. However, it’s important not to assume that the image is unchangeable. The reflection will change as we do.
One of the best ways to begin to like the reflection, especially if you don’t, is to spend less time criticizing what it is that you have been trained to believe is unattractive about you. Doing so just replays and reinforces the old tapes that came from your parents and siblings. When we replay those tapes in our mind and act out what they claim, we simply attract more people like our parents and siblings who will treat us the same way. We become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Others mindlessly just fill in the pattern we present just like a puzzle holding a space for a particular piece with a specific shape of behavior. They just “fill in the hole” corresponding to that specific type of behavior. We can change the “direction of flow” of that behavior so we can be treated differently. The idea is changing your presentation so that they don’t fill up the space with the same old responses. Here’s how.
First, begin by writing a list of skills that you have proven to yourself that you do well. If you’re good at cooking, write that down. If you’re good a bowling, write that down. Do this with as many skills as you are able. DO NOT quit until you have at least ten.
Next, stand in front of the mirror, yes…in front of the mirror…I don’t care if it makes you feel silly, and tell the person in the mirror one by one the list of things that you can do. These are things that you have proven to yourself so this should not be difficult. It doesn’t matter if you think someone else could do them better. It doesn’t concern you if they can. The fact is that you know that you do them well! This is proof enough for your critical mind to accept these statements as being true. Make sure you use your own standards for what you think means well, NOT what someone else has told you.
I want you to do this at least three times once per day. After you’ve done this for three consecutive days I want you to make another list of at least five qualities that you have exhibited, proven to yourself and that you believe makes you valuable to other people. These can be being compassionate, being generous, being a good listener, the list can be endless. And again, make sure that you use your own standards for what you believe is of value, NOT what someone else has told you. It’s not important if they’ve acknowledged your behavior or not. That doesn’t concern you. What should concern you the most is that you know in your own heart that you’ve behaved in a way that your heart has told you is right. It’s the most important that you know this.
You know what’s coming now! Yes. Again, stand in front of the mirror and tell the person in the mirror one by one the list of qualities that you possess. These are qualities that you have proven to your own heart that you possess. There is no doubt. Other people’s opinion or disagreement about what you feel does not concern you. You know it in your heart. You’ve proven it to yourself. Again, do this for three days once per day.
I guarantee that once you have done this process once through that your negative vision of yourself in the mirror will no longer be as powerful. You many not yet feel fully comfortable in front of a mirror but the urge to avoid them will no longer be as strong or feel quite as embarrassing.
These two exercises are not affirmations. Generally, affirmations are what you wish to claim about yourself when you truly don’t believe it. They can be powerfully counter- productive and actually increase the unwanted feelings depending on how far off what you say about yourself is from what you actually believe. These two exercises simply reaffirm what you already know and believe about yourself. They’re just bringing to the surface your positive skills and qualities so you can empower and apply them to how you perceive yourself and, then in turn, how you present yourself to others.
Changing how people respond to you is simply a matter changing what you present to them by emphasizing what you respect and appreciate about yourself. All the world’s a stage. It’s better to project who you truly are than what you’ve been trained to believe about yourself leaving others to assume what you aren’t. A mirror doesn’t tell you who you are. It’s only a tool. It simply reflects what you project. Changing your projection changes your reflection. Then you can see the real you and so can others!