Look into a mirror and say to your reflection, "I love you". No, don't laugh, this is serious! Find a mirror, look into your eyes and say those three little words. Don't just say it - mean it!
How did you go?
Did you think it would be easy, but then found you couldn't say the words? Did you find yourself muttering the words but looking away from your reflection to say them? If so, you're not alone. For the majority of us this is actually a very difficult exercise. (So, congratulations, if you had no problem.)
Many years ago, a workshop facilitator challenged each of us to do the same exercise. I thought it would be a breeze … until I stood in front of the mirror. Then I found I couldn't say anything. Well, actually, I could say, "I … I … I …" before I walked away saying something like, "This is ridiculous." By the way, it would be a little over a year before I could.
People whose self-esteem and self-respect have taken a beating cannot look into the mirror and say "I love you", let alone look in the mirror and say those three little words with feeling. It's because our self-talk has become so negative, that when we are faced with saying some nice about, or to, ourselves that we have problems.
How you talk to yourself is incredibly important. It defines how you treat yourself. You can be your own best friend or your own worst enemy depending on what you say. And what you say is tied in to the beliefs you have about yourself.
Let's use the last three articles as the bases for another couple of exercises.
We've explored why there is no such thing as a mistake, failure or 'should'.
So, go back to the mirror, look into your eyes and say, "You have made so many mistakes in your life, you should be ashamed of yourself." Jot down on a sheet of paper how you felt when you said this. Did you have any reaction in the body? If so, where and what?
Now say to your reflection, "You are such a failure!" Again, jot down on a sheet of paper how you felt, whether you had any reaction in the body and what it was.
Here's Challenge Number 1: say to the person in the mirror, "You have created so many learning opportunities in your life, and you are stronger for them. I am proud of you."
How did you feel when you said this? Did you have any reaction in the body? If so, what was your body's response?
Challenge Number 2: tell your reflection this: "You are a success, and you go from strength to strength." What were your feelings and body responses?
As you can see, the first two exercises had you saying something negative, and the challenges were to say something positive. If you had a problem with the I-love-you exercise you probably found the negative statements much easier to say.
It's a sad fact that in our society, we find it much easier to accept criticism than compliments. I'm sure you've said to someone, "That's a great shirt, it really suits you" and the response has been, "What this old thing?". How did you react the last time a compliment was paid to you? Did you accept it graciously, or make a negative remark in response?
The only truly acceptable response to a compliment is "Thank you" – accompanied by a smile, of course!
Do you ever take the time to compliment yourself? Do you talk to yourself as you would a friend? Or is it easier to criticise who you are, what you do, and how you look? If so, we are going to work on changing your attitude to yourself.
Compliments are a great way of making you (the receiver) feel good. They boost the morale. They increase the self-confidence. Compliments can have exactly the same effect on the giver of the compliment – when the compliment is received with a simple thank you and smile.
Here's how you can change the way you talk to yourself … EVERY MORNING after you have dressed, look into the mirror and pay yourself a compliment. "That's a great colour on you", "That colour matches your eyes", "You look fantastic!"
EVERY EVENING before you go to bed, look into the mirror and pay yourself a compliment for ONE thing you did that day. No matter whether you cooked a family meal which was devoured in minutes, or whether you managed to finish fiscal statements in time for a board meeting, choose one thing you did that day which pleased you and made you feel good. And if you truly cannot find one little thing, compliment yourself on being the best you could be all day.
This simple (or not so simple!) exercise will bring you heaps of benefits. For a start, you begin and end your day on a high. During the day you will find yourself looking for opportunities to hand out compliments. You will find yourself becoming more positive – and because you are looking for positive things to say and do, positive things come looking for you.
Other benefits include: a change in posture (you will stand straighter), a change in attitude (you become more confident), a change in behaviour (your language and action will improve). In short – you will become a much happier person.
There's a spin-off to this, that I should warn you about …. you will find yourself pulling faces at your reflection! Don't be surprised when it happens because it's a very normal (and expected) consequence of becoming happier with who you are. We laugh and joke with our friends, so why not laugh and joke with ourselves?