When you look into or pass by a mirror, what is the first thing you do? If you are like most people, your first response is to criticize the image reflecting back to you.
There is a huge full-length mirror in an elevator lobby in my building that compels anyone who is waiting for the elevators to catch a glimpse of themselves. I always find it interesting to hear what people say: “Boy, I look tired,” “My hair looks terrible today,” and “Ooh – I am really gaining weight” are a few of the most common things I hear. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say something positive about their own reflection.
Of course, it is rather uncomfortable to say aloud that you think you look wonderful when you are in a public place. So the question is: Why do we think it is all right to say something negative about ourselves in a public place?
Most of us have been socially conditioned to worry about how other people think of us. While there is nothing wrong with trying to emulate the qualities we admire in others, we do ourselves a great deal of harm by judging and criticizing ourselves when we think we are not measuring up to our perceptions of other people’s expectations. Chronic self-criticism produces guilt and shame, and shame is an emotion that continues to perpetuate a negative self-image.
So where does our self-image originate? Beginning early in our childhoods, we are mentally programmed with beliefs which have been influenced by years of social conditioning, religious doctrines, family structure, teaching institutions, and customs. When we were young children, we did not have the mental capabilities to screen what was our personal truth and what was someone else’s, so we unconditionally accepted the perceptions of our parents and people around us as absolute truth. If a parent consistently scolded us by saying we were “bad,” or a teacher in kindergarten told us we were “not bright,” we most likely accepted these statements as gospel. Because we needed to look to others for our survival when we were young children, we tended to adapt our thinking and behavior to gain acceptance and approval from others.
If you have had a lot of positive programming as a child, chances are that you have developed a healthy sense of self-esteem by learning how to focus on your strengths. If you have had a lot of criticism as you were growing up (and most of us have), you may have developed the habit of constantly looking for your shortcomings. You can spend your whole life living backward by blaming the people who passed on their fear-based beliefs, or you can move into present time by living your life according to your own authentic values. If we truly want to heal, at a soul level, we need to transform the foundation of all of our beliefs from fear to love, beginning with ourselves.
The next time you look into a mirror, look into your own eyes and tell yourself what you most need to hear: “I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” If you are at home, say it out loud. If you are in public, think it to yourself. You cannot say or hear it too often because the most basic human need we all have is to be loved and accepted. If this is a message we want to hear from others, it is a message we need to first tell ourselves. This practice will help you to develop the habit of focusing on your light and inner beauty because it is based on the unconditional love of Spirit.
One of the most touching and simply written summaries I have ever seen regarding self-esteem was written by the 8-year old daughter of a close friend of mine. Her assignment was to look at a cat looking in a mirror, with a tiger reflecting back. She was asked to look at the picture and explain her thinking on the following statement: “What you think of yourself is more important than what you think others think of you.” Following is her response:
I think that the statement and picture mean that you need to be proud to be you and to think of yourself as amazing, talented, and very, very special. Do not worry about what other people think of you. If YOU think you are great, smart, and doing well, that is probably what other people will think of you. If not – no worries. In conclusion, be happy with who you are. Your opinion of yourself may not be the same as others, but that does not matter. YOU ARE STILL SPECIAL!!
Love and Light