Do you love yourself?
Before you answer, think about the question and everything it means. Do you take care of yourself? Not just your body and health, but your spirit and heart? Do you support yourself? Celebrate victories, your birthday, or just you? Can you offer yourself encouragement when you really need it?
Let’s change the angle of the questions: When you try self-encouragement, does it work? Do you need other people to validate your victories, your birthday … you? When you look into a mirror, are you quick to find fault with what you see? Is love only thought about when considering a family member? Does LOVE only matter when it involves a romantic interest? To feel loved, do you need to hear the words, “I love you” from an outside source?
Do any of these questions make you uncomfortable?
Here’s another question: Who or what do you take the best care of? If your answer is anyone or anything other than yourself, you may want to give the original question a little more thought.
Usually the answer to that last question is emphatically and vehemently – and quite indignantly – by parents. The children come first. I know; I am one. This may be hard to swallow, but one doesn’t have to preclude the other. The best way to show your children how to love themselves is to show them that you love yourself. (“Self-love vs. Parenting: It’s Not One or theOther”)
Louise Hay is considered to be one of the founders of the self-help movement, and she promotes a technique for self-love that she calls “Mirror Work.” Basically, it is positive self-talk, using a mirror.
While it may seem laughable, this method is brilliant in its simplicity. We may feel silly talking to our reflection in a mirror, but having that reflection, that ‘person we are talking to’ involved in our conversation makes the idea of having a self-talk more like an actual conversation. Because we are looking at ourselves, it helps cement not just what we are saying, but to whom we are speaking. It’s harder to ignore something that is spoken “to your face” than it is when it’s just in your head.
It’s not easy at first. What’s funny is that when we try it for the first time, we feel silly or ridiculous without even realizing that we already do it all the time, every time we look in a mirror and pick out a flaw that we see. If we are already doing a perverted form of mirror work, why is trying to do it positively a foolish thing?
It took me a few attempts before my mind would take it seriously. I would try to say something nice to myself and immediately make a negative joke, or I wouldn’t be able to look away from ALL of my imperfections. I would get distracted by wishing I could change how things looked. I gave up on trying to talk to myself and just tried looking at myself without saying or thinking anything (that took a few more tries). The first time I was able to manage that, I cried.
Of course, after that, I threw the mirror down and stayed away for a few weeks. I didn’t want to bring up what I’d been avoiding.
I didn’t love myself.
The fact that I cried made it embarrassing (embarrassment’s a funny thing – I was embarrassed why? Who saw me? No one!); but my reaction served to drive home how important self-love was, by the fact that its absence hurt me so much.
For me, the crying turned out to be a good thing. It released a lot of pain and resistance.
I’ve since picked up the mirror again. It’s getting easier. I’m even thinking about making a special, designated mirror for it. Maybe I’ll even write something positive on all of my mirrors.
I’m learning to love myself more, too; not just how to, but that I actually do (at least, a little more). I’m also seeing proof of its positive impact around me, in many little ways.
And that’s enough for me to keep at it.