How Looking In The Mirror Can Change Your Life | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

How Looking In The Mirror Can Change Your Life

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I want to share a powerful exercise that’s been a key part of my personal growth journey.  The exercise is very simple—just sit in front of a mirror and look into your own eyes for ten minutes.  No matter what thoughts and sensations come up for you, see if you can hold your gaze on your reflection.  See if you can breathe, keep in mind that just looking into a mirror can’t really hurt or destroy you, and ride out any intensity that arises.

I’ve had many different experiences doing this exercise.  On some days, I feel a warmth in my heart and a desire to appreciate myself, and this exercise gives me a chance to show myself gratitude.  At other times, I feel anger or sadness welling up inside, and I get the opportunity to become aware of and release those emotions.  But no matter what I experience, it ultimately leads me to more peace and self-understanding, and I’ve seen the same effects in others I’ve recommended this to.

Here are some wonderful benefits of doing this exercise regularly:

1.  Dispel Your Negative Body Image. Many of us carry around an unconscious (and often unflattering) picture of what our bodies look like as we walk through the world, and that picture affects how we behave and relate to others.  If we have a mental picture of ourselves as ugly and frightening, for example, we’ll probably shy away from people, assume it would be useless to approach someone we’re attracted to, and so on.

Looking in a mirror for a while gives us a chance to see our bodies as they actually are, and let go of our often exaggerated and unrealistic mental images of ourselves.  I’ve seen people break into tears while doing this exercise, as they saw how revolting they’d been making their bodies out to be, and how radically incorrect their image of themselves was.

2.  Acknowledge Yourself. This exercise is a great setting for appreciating yourself and acknowledging the wonderful contributions you’re making to the world.  As I think you’ll find, there’s something particularly powerful about staring yourself in the face and expressing gratitude for who you are and what you do.

Of course, for many of us, there’s also something painful about acknowledging ourselves like this, because it forces us to confront how uncomfortable we are with praising ourselves.  Many of us are accustomed to belittling ourselves, making sure we don’t hog the spotlight, trying not to brag, and so on.  So naturally, we often judge ourselves as “rude,” “selfish,” and so on while doing this exercise.

But if you keep doing this over time, I think you’ll find, the discomfort fades away.  Jack Canfield puts it well in writing about this exercise in The Success Principles:  “as you begin to act more positive and nurturing toward yourself, it is natural to have physical and emotional reactions as you release the old negative parental wounds, unrealistic expectations, and self-judgments,” but “they are only temporary and will pass after a few days of doing the exercise.”

3.  Be Honest With Yourself. One thing this exercise takes away from you is the ability to hide from yourself and what you’re feeling.  Many of us live our lives in constant self-distraction mode, trying to tune out our thoughts and feelings with our work, relationships, TV-watching, and so on.  The last thing we want to do is be with ourselves in silence, because we’re afraid of the intense emotions that may come up.

There’s no escaping what’s going on for you, however, when you’re staring yourself in the face.  If you’re feeling dissatisfied with some aspect of your life, this exercise makes you fully experience that dissatisfaction—there’s no TV, Internet or iPod to help you get away.  If you’re angry at someone, and you’ve been diverting your attention from the anger most of the time, you have no choice but to be with how you’re feeling.

The upside is that, by forcing you to confront what’s really going on for you, looking in the mirror helps you consider what you can change in your life, and how you can treat yourself more kindly, to create a healthier relationship with yourself.

As you can probably tell from what I’ve written, this isn’t exactly a “Feel Good Now!” exercise that’s guaranteed to immediately perk you up.  In the beginning, staring at yourself for ten minutes may be a surprisingly uncomfortable experience.  It’s very different from briefly glancing at your reflection in the morning as you comb your hair.  But if you stick with it, I think you’ll find it’s a powerful way to get more comfortable with and accepting of yourself.

My Recent Interview on What We Need To Know

I also want to share with you a more in-depth radio interview I did recently on What We Need to Know with Ed Morler.  We explore issues like meditation techniques, finding your true calling in your career, how conscious breathing can help you stay grounded in the face of stress, and so on, more thoroughly than I have on the air before.  I hope you enjoy it!

Listen to the Show (link to Contact Talk Radio site)

20 thoughts on
How Looking In The Mirror Can Change Your Life

  1. Amanda Linehan

    Hi Chris – I will have to try this. Your third point, “being honest with yourself”, is so important, even if it’s painful at first. Because once you get through the pain, you understand (and hopefully accept) yourself more. We often need to start with exactly what we don’t want to see and I think this exercise would facilitate that.

  2. Lance

    Hi Chris,
    This very much feels like a form of meditation. And that’s always been a great way for me to connect with myself. I’ve not tried this in front of a mirror. And the truth is, I struggle sometimes anyway to meditate, or quiet my mind, for an extended period of time. So, this is one more tool that can be a real help in us connecting with our deeper selves…and that’s a very good thing…

  3. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Thanks Amanda — yes, I think that’s a good description of how this exercise often works — seeing something we don’t want to see, and then realizing that it isn’t that scary or dangerous after all.

  4. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Lance — now that you bring that up, one thing I’ve noticed is that my mind does tend to get quiet as I’m looking into my own eyes, especially when emotions come up. I wonder if this will work for you the same way.

  5. Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord

    I did a modified form of this exercise earlier this year and it stopped me in my tracks. I looked at myself and rather than letting my mind project what it thought it was used to seeing, I actually allowed my eyes to see the real me in that mirror. Suddenly, I was grounded in the moment and saw who I was – not who I wanted to be, didn’t want to be, or anything in between. This is a great post on a great growth tactic. Thanks for sharing it!

  6. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Megan — I think that’s a great description of the exercise — you get a chance to see yourself instead of the picture of yourself that exists only in the mind, and there’s a real simplicity and groundedness to that.

  7. Davina

    Hi Chris. This is a great exercise! I’ve done it before and it was very odd (in a good way). As I stared into my eyes I could swear that there was more than just me in that mirror. I half expected my reflection to speak to me. Thanks for reminding me of this exercise.

  8. Sara

    Chris,

    After reading this, I decided to give it a try. I went to my bathroom mirror and stared at my face. When I moved in closer, something interesting happened. I could swear my eyes were smiling at me. I did it twice with the same feeling. It made me very good. Thank you:~)

  9. cordieB

    Excellent advice here… Today, I personally found this bit to hit home with me. “3. Be Honest With Yourself. One thing this exercise takes away from you is the ability to hide from yourself and what you’re feeling. Many of us live our lives in constant self-distraction mode, trying to tune out our thoughts and feelings with our work, relationships, TV-watching, and so on. The last thing we want to do is be with ourselves in silence, because we’re afraid of the intense emotions that may come up.”

    In the past, when I was living a life that was so opposite than who I was inside and truely wanted to be, I found it very difficult, almost impossible to look into the mirror. The mirror reflected to me what I knew deep inside was fake, insencere, and cold. It was not me – it was not who I even wanted to be. I had been trained and brainwashed in the dog eat dog world, but I knew deep inside that the dog eat dog world was eating me up from the inside out. Literally, looking in that mirror brought me to my knees, softend the core which I had hardened, and helped me to be a changed individual – more in line of my true spirit. For that I am thankful.

    Your article reminded me of those days – - and you are so right. Literally, looking into a mirror for some time forces one to face what really is. Thanks for the most eloquent reminder! I shall look into the mirror again tonight. I wonder what I will discover this time. :)

    Lots of love and super info here at this site. Thanks for sharing!!! I bet it is wonderful to make a living off of what you so freely give away each day! It is a blessing! Productivity from Within sounds like the book for me.

    Peace, Light and Love. . . CordieB.

  10. Jannie Funster

    I like myself right now! Staring into the mirror was fun. I only lasted 3 minutes, is that okay? I felt a real rush of love and acceptance for myself and the world, I just had to smile and hop back here to the computer.

    And just watched your video from your “Chris’s Story” page. I’m so glad you followed your heart and got out of litigating and into coaching! You are a true gift and inspiration to the world!

  11. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi cordieB — thanks for your comment and appreciation. It sounds like getting everyone else’s approval turned out to be no substitute for being able to face yourself in the mirror — I know I definitely felt that way in my old career. I was inspired by your curiosity when you said you wonder what you’ll discover about yourself tonight.

  12. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Jannie — you have my blessing to do it for fewer than 10 minutes if that fits better into your schedule. After all, I know you’re a rock star and everything.

    Aww, thanks for the appreciation. I don’t think anyone ever told me I was an inspiration to the world when I was a lawyer, so that’s been a nice side benefit of my career change. :)

  13. Karl Staib - Work Happy Now

    Looking at myself in the mirror used to feel uncomfortable. It was my own insecurities that was causing my fear. I broke this by taking pictures of myself for a book I was working on. It was called 92 Things to Do Besides Suicide. This none stop look at myself made me realize how I could let go of my fear. I can see how the mirror exercise would accomplish the same thing.

  14. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Karl — I appreciated hearing about your journey — it sounds like the picture-taking exercise and creating the book were pretty intense for you.

  15. Giovanna Garcia

    Hi Chris

    Be honest to yourself is one the most important thing and the foundation for everything inculding happiness. This is a great post.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  16. Andrea Hess|Empowered Soul

    Awesome exercise! I find this one tough to do for a whole ten minutes, although I’ve practiced it for shorter periods of time. I agree that the “getting honest” part is so important … if we can’t be authentic with ourselves, how can we live authentically in the world? And yet, sometimes bringing awareness to the layers between our ego and our true selves can be daunting!

    I’ll have to revisit this one! Thank you!

    Blessings,
    Andrea

  17. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Thanks Andrea! I’m curious about what gets tough for you about it — I have my own ways it gets difficult for me but I’m always interested in other people’s. Yes, the being honest with myself aspect of the exercise is the most confronting for me as well — sometimes even if I think I’ve accomplished a lot in a day, I’ll start to get the sense doing the mirror exercise that I haven’t done what was really important to me, and that will be a painful but educational truth.

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