NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, The Healing Project.
This has been a difficult week for me, which probably means I should have been devoting more attention to my healing project, instead of virtually ignoring it for a number of days. In getting back on track today, I searched for an exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life” to complete and write about. I was quickly drawn to the most appropriate exercise for me at this particularly point in time, the “Mirror Exercise” on page 35.
Simple Yet Not Easy…
The Mirror Exercise is extremely simple, yet not at all easy. The straightforward instructions are: look in a mirror and into your own eyes, speak your name, and say, “I love and accept you exactly as you are.”
Louise Hay asks each of her clients to do this exercise during their initial session with her. She states that she has rarely had a calm reaction to her simple request. On the contrary, some clients were brought to tears, while others became angry and refused to do the exercise. One client even threw the mirror across the room! Needless to say, it isn’t easy to proclaim love and acceptance for ourselves.
My Experience with the Mirror Exercise
During the height of beating myself up for what I felt was an unproductive week and an overall stagnation in my life, I decided to do this powerful exercise. As I walked up to the mirror, I felt my heart pound loudly and a tingling sensation crawled up the sides of my body. I also felt flushed despite the relatively cool temperature in the room. My eyes welled up with tears before I even opened my mouth to speak the requisite words. However, when I actually spoke the words, I did not feel sad or angry. Instead, I felt a sense of peace and calm wash over my body.
It was a relief to affirm my acceptance and love for myself today and it really felt good for me to do it. I know that in the past, it would have been very difficult for me to speak Louise Hay’s simple statement. I used to be far more invested in making myself wrong than in wanting to feel good about myself and my life. Although I still have a long way to go in terms of self-esteem and acceptance, I have made some definite progress in these areas. It’s taken a lot of hard work and self-examination for me to get to the point where I am ready to accept and love myself.
Self-Acceptance is Empowering
Why is it empowering to declare love and acceptance toward ourselves? Louise Hay asserts that the root of all human problems lies in not loving ourselves. Even if we can give ourselves a tiny bit of love during a brief mirror exercise, this can go a long way toward counteracting the negative messages we send ourselves on a regular basis.
Positive messages are far more powerful than negative messages, and even irregular empowering messages can serve to inoculate us against an onslaught of self-effacing thoughts. I know this is true because I’ve been inwardly affirming “I approve of myself” as often as I remember to do so in recent months. This simple action has helped me to become stronger and I am finding myself less compromised by sadness and depression than before I began this practice.
Acceptance Doesn’t Mean We Don’t Want to Change
To clarify, stating that we love and accept ourselves exactly as we are in a given moment does not mean that we don’t want to change anything about our circumstances. We may have a number of things we wish to change, as well as some powerful goals for the future. The truth is that we are far more likely to achieve our goals and make successful changes when we begin from a space of self-acceptance.
Lasting transformation cannot be accomplished through brow-beating and self-effacement. A good example of this relates to weight loss. I can remember many times when I would look at myself in the mirror, pinch my stomach and thighs, and use colorful adjectives like disgusting, ugly, and weak to describe myself. These debasements only served to make me feel much worse about myself and propel me to comfort myself with food, an action that was counterproductive for my weight loss goals.
I have had far better luck when I’ve treated myself with kindness. If I start with self-acceptance and then move forward toward change, I am much more likely to be successful. If, instead of beating myself up and calling myself awful names, I dress in flattering clothing and do my best to look and feel attractive, the likelihood of my exercising and making good food choices is much greater.
Power in the Present Moment
One of the key principles of Louise Hay and many other spiritual teachers is that the point of power is always in the present moment. In the here and now, we have a choice. We can criticize ourselves or we can love and accept ourselves. One choice will lead us to feel weak and dis-empowered; the other choice will uplift and empower us.
As I stared into my eyes in the mirror and proclaimed my acceptance of myself, I experienced an energetic boost. I was infused with power and strength to face the challenges of the day, along with a sense of calm and assurance that I can accomplish my goals for the future. This is far better than the metaphorical “air out of the tires” feeling I encountered each time I criticized myself for not meeting my impossibly high standards for acceptability.
My Challenge Moving Forward
My challenge now is to show myself more love and compassion than disdain and criticism. My task is to stop myself mid-criticism and switch to affirming self- acceptance and love. My commitment is to know that I am enough, that I don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved by others – or by myself.
I close with a portion of a “spiritual treatment” from Louise Hay:
“In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect, whole and complete. I am always divinely protected and guided… It is safe for me to enlarge my viewpoint of life. I am far more than my personality – past, present, or future. I now choose to rise above my personality problems to recognize the magnificence of my being. I am totally willing to learn to love myself. All is well in my world.”