Mirror Work: A Shortcut to Self Love?

One day of mirror work took me outside my logical mind long enough to see my next steps on the path to self love.

Mirror Work

Most days when I look in a mirror, it’s to analyze my appearance. How’s my side profile shaping up these days? Is my complexion showing my age yet? Is it time to tame my eyebrows?

Working an I love you into the dialogue with my reflection sounds absurd. But it’s been almost two years since a therapist recommended that I try mirror work, two months since I found Louise Hay’s Mirror Work on Mom’s bookshelf, and a month since I started using the book as a coaster for my evening glass of red wine.

So, when a friend in my Women Writing for a Change workshop also recommended mirror work, I finally gave in.

The Hardest Part

The day I started mirror work, I locked myself in the bathroom and turned on the fan to avoid being heard. I felt stupid. It was like starting a romantic fling I’d be embarrassed to own—fine behind closed doors, but ill-prepared for public exposure.

I couldn’t say the first affirmation out loud: I want to like you. I want to learn to love you. Instead, I thought the words and looked into my eyes. Something about the eye contact is where the magic starts, my friend had said.

Within five minutes, I exited the bathroom. As expected, the exercise had been uneventful.

Writing is obviously more my speed, so I was relieved to head for the accompanying journal prompts. But something stopped me on my way. As soon as I broke eye contact with the mirror, a sharp cramp stabbed into the space over my left shoulder blade. I tried a light stretch to no avail and propped myself up with pillows as I journaled.

Learning Your Language

My introduction to Louise Hay was through her most popular work, You Can Heal Your Life. She claims that the body speaks through discomfort and pain, and she’s taken the time to index its language. I half believe in her theory, which is why even though I had just finished a chest, triceps, and shoulder workout 30 minutes earlier, I decided to consult the index, just to see.

According to Hay, upper back pain can be a sign of holding back love or feeling unloved. She also says the left side of the body is associated with receiving. Coincidence or not, I got the message: when it comes to self love, I’m holding back.

Okay, I thought, I’ll give this another try.

Day 2 of mirror work delivered unexpected insights into why I never have enough time to do the things I want to do. Quality time is one of my love languages, and learning to give it to myself has been a game changer. I’m on week 4 of getting up an hour early to exercise, which gives me more time to edit my manuscript while the boys are at school.

How the Love Gets In

Healthy partnership is something I’ve studied and experienced much more extensively than self love. I understand what it’s like to feel and be in love, not just intellectually know about it. But how do I keep working my way toward self love?

In a recent journal exercise, I took my advice from the healthy partnership realm and converted it into the dimension of mirror work and self love. Here’s what I wrote to myself:

How can a person possibly know what it feels like to be in love before they stumble into it? First, you have to open yourself to the possibility. You are worthy of being loved—by you. Keep looking in the mirror. Keep writing. You’ll know it when you find it, and it will happen when you least expect it.

I think I’m further along the path to self love than I realize. The stabbing back pain has not returned, and it’s safe to say I’m friends with myself, which, in my experience, is the best foundation.

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