Compliment Your Mirror Day

love mindset Jul 24, 2018

A few years ago, I met Dianna for the first time. She’d just moved to New York for a modeling job, and she was having trouble settling in. She missed her family and had a hard time making friends. She was lonely.

During our second session, I noticed that Dianna had a pattern: she criticized herself about everything. Her personality, her body, her teeth, her intelligence—nothing was safe from her negativity. She even said once she thought her elbows were ugly.

“It’s just how I am,” she said, shrugging, when I pointed this out to her. “I’m really critical of myself. I have high standards.”

I could tell Dianna thought that all her self-criticism wasn’t destructive. But from what I saw, it was making her hate herself, and her life.

“What do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror?” I asked her.

“You want the truth?” she said. I nodded. “Look at those bags! Those wrinkles! Is that more gray hair? Why are my eyes so puffy? God, I’m old. Why am I so ugly?…and a few things I don’t want to repeat,” she said, giving me a rueful smile.

Did mention that Dianna is a model? She’s beautiful, in her late thirties, with glowing skin and a great smile. And yet she sees none of it.

Can you imagine treating a loved one that way? It would be verbal abuse!

And yet many of us do it, don’t we? Women especially are experts at berating ourselves. Looking in the mirror is often when we’re most vulnerable – that’s when we unleash our worst, most cutting insults.

I asked Dianna to describe her best friend. “Oh, she’s beautiful,” said Dianna. “She’s got this long flowing hair, freckles, big brown eyes.”

“Does she have any wrinkles?”

“A few, but I mean, who cares?”

“Any gray hairs?”

“Yeah, but you can hardly tell. It makes her look real, you know?”

“Would you ever tell her she’s ugly and old and puffy-looking?”                 

“Of course not.”

“What if you looked at your own reflection the way you looked at your friend?”

Dianna shook her head. She was quiet for a minute, and then she sighed and said, “That’d be nice. But I don’t know if I can.”

She decided to try it. Every day for a month, she’d make a conscious effort to find something in the mirror to compliment. She would find one thing that she liked, even if it wasn’t perfect. I asked her to write it down in a notebook, as a way to hold her accountable.

Two weeks later, she called me.

“Sonia,” she said, “you probably know what I’m going to say, but – it’s like night and day. I feel so much better about myself.”

“That’s great,” I said. “What’s different?”

“It’s hard to explain,” she said. “Before, I could only see the worst things about me, or the ones I perceived as ugly. Now I see the good ones too, and I see them all as…as making up me. It’s like, I used to think I had to change the bad parts and make them perfect. But now I’m realizing that I don’t have to change them. I just want to change how I see them. I guess that’s what accepting yourself is.”

It’s so crucial that we learn to accept ourselves, to love ourselves, gray hairs and all. If that’s difficult for you – as if is for millions and millions of people – check your self-talk.

What you say to yourself becomes a physical part of your brain. It’s called experience-based neuroplasticity.

Every time you think something, a string of neurons lights up in your brain, creating a neural pathway. And every time you repeat a thought (and some say up to 95% of our thoughts are repetitive), that pathway gets reinforced, like a trail in the woods being tamped down. Your most frequent thoughts become physical routes in your brain, so they’re easier and easier to travel. It’s like staying on a familiar, open road, versus bush-whacking through the jungle.

The more you tell yourself how much you suck, the harder it is to move away from that belief. And the more you tell yourself you’re capable, you’re great, you can do this – the easier it is to believe it.

Whatever you tell yourself the most? That’s the easiest thing to believe.

Self-talk is how beliefs form. If you’re constantly tamping down the pathway for “I’m ugly,” then of course you’ll have low self-esteem. If you regularly tamp down the path “I am beautiful,” then you’re creating a foundation of positive beliefs about yourself.

July 3 was Compliment Your Mirror Day, which is a great reminder that you can always improve your self-talk, and your self-esteem, by showing some love to your mirror. I want to take that idea of complimenting your mirror and apply it to this topic of self-talk and beliefs.

What if you were to give yourself – your reflection – one compliment, every day, for a month?

I challenge you to try it, especially if you’re feeling some resistance around this. If this feels hokey or silly to you, then prove me wrong – do it, and see if it doesn’t work : )

What compliment will you give yourself today?

 Tell me below, then go tell your mirror.

Then go out, be your beautiful self, and shine.

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