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Coming face-to-face with your Self can be one of the most difficult and critical steps in your journey to true self-awareness. Beliefs and feelings about yourself can be really persistent, often deeply ingrained in the psyche since childhood. Inviting these old beliefs in and bringing awareness to them, however, plays a pivotal role in releasing the kind of patterns that hold you down and keep you stuck. This is a close-up look at you—that only you can take.
Really Look at Yourself
The first step? Get a mirror and really look at yourself. Then respond to the following questions while you literally see yourself face-to-face.
1. What do you think?
If your first response sounds something like, “I’d rather not be doing this at all,” wait for the words and messages linked to the desire to avert your gaze.
2. How do you feel?
Perhaps the answers will relate to your age: “I feel really old” or “I hate that I see gray hair.” You might try blinking your eyes a few times, looking at the mirror image of yourself again, and inquiring once more how you really feel.
3. How do you behave toward yourself?
Are you smiling or laughing? Or are you grimacing and scowling? What’s behind that response?
4. How does the way you think, feel, and behave toward yourself as you look at yourself in the mirror impact your life and others’ lives?
Look for connections here. If you have thoughts and feelings about being too fat, has it kept you obsessing about weight-loss methods and holding you back in social situations? If the person you see reflected in the mirror is someone who lacks self-confidence, how might that be blocking your way in achieving your goals and cultivating more joy?
5. When the you in the mirror is looking back at you, what do you assume he or she thinks about you?
By turning the reflection in the mirror into a separate entity, the messages that you get back may sound more like the voices of your parents, your peers at school, or the lover who broke up with you. Just notice what bubbles up and try to be present with it.
6. When the you in the mirror is looking at you, how do you assume she or he feels about you?
Perhaps you would say, “she hates me” or “he thinks I’m a fool.”
7. When the you in the mirror is looking at you, how do you experience his or her behavior toward you?
Does she act as if she wants to hang out with you or keep her distance? Is he or she encouraging you to change your expression?
8. How has the way that you assume the you in the mirror thinks, feels, and behaves toward you impacted your life and others’ lives?
If the “mirror, mirror on the wall” refrain has captured something deeply painful, stick with it. See how you can bring awareness to it.
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Now, See How You See Yourself
After that, I invite you to close your eyes and imagine walking into a tunnel, you notice mirrors on all sides, the top, and the bottom. If you look up, you see yourself. When you look down, you see yourself. And if you look left or right, you still see yourself.
If you’re like most people, you will likely respond to what you see in a visual way. In other words, body image rises to your awareness. Well, I’ve never met anyone who says they have a perfect body, so there’s a pretty good chance you will encounter some negative beliefs here. What is it for you?
Many issues relating to body image come wrapped in heaps of ridicule, potentially going all the way back to school days. Or the issue may have entered your life at a later time: you were thin as a child but gained a lot of weight as an adult. So you’ve got the reactions of other adults to absorb. If something did change in your physical appearance, you may be carrying anger or resentment about that. As you sort out the messages you have received about how you look, inquire where they originated. Was it with your friends, your community, your culture, or yourself? Did the message come from trauma?
Simply note all these observations regarding your beliefs about physical appearance, and then get ready for an extra challenge: remove your clothing and look at yourself in the mirror while naked. Now you really can’t hide from yourself!
Look more closely at your own eyes looking back at you. From that place, ask yourself these questions about how you think and feel, and watch what comes quickly to mind.
Whatever you experience is real for you. When you do see a negative attitude pop up on your radar, ask yourself, “How well is this attitude working for me in my life?” If you could choose another attitude or approach, what would it be? If you have run into charged emotions, take your time going through each of them individually and you will reap major rewards.
If you identified a belief that has remained entrenched for much of your life, perhaps you can now see how it has turned into a formula. For example, “I’ll never get anyone to really find me attractive.” So therefore you carry an attitude that you’re not worth looking at and you don’t take proper care of your body. As a result, you become less and less attractive and your self-worth and self-confidence remain low or dip even lower.
Naming what drives our thoughts, feelings, and behavior in life and holding it up to a higher light, is the beginning of the possibility to change it.
About Our Expert
Foojan Zeine, PsyD, LMFT, is a psychotherapist, international speaker, and author of LIFE RESET (Rowman & Littlefield). She specializes in intimate relations, addictive behaviors, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and domestic violence. Find her at www.foojan.com.