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Mirror Self-Compassion. How does it work?

Updated: May 10, 2021

At any moment thoughts go naturally through our mind. What if while standing in front of the mirror, we decide to be more intentional in our thinking instead of letting thoughts wander irrationally?

When we begin to pay attention to our inner talk, we determine what to offer ourselves and can choose between a range of emotions, such as indifference, criticism, reassurance or kindness.

Common sense would suggest that we should offer ourselves positive emotions. But without a rational commitment, how many would naturally do that? Paying attention to how we talk to ourselves can make a huge difference in the way we feel.

Positive affirmations allow our minds to stay flexible and open to self-compassion and kindness even when things become a bit challenging.

Repeating positive affirmations in front of a mirror is a way to improve self-acceptance. There are many articles, books, and youtube videos describing how an intentional positive mindset improves the way life is experienced. That's why self-compassion and mindfulness are frequently suggested to be implemented in our self-care practices.

Among the tools to add to our daily routine there is compassionate self-talk. Paying attention to the way we talk to ourselves. Noticing if we tend to be harsh or critical and if we do so, intentionally change the self-talk to a more compassionate, encouraging and non-judgmental one.

Using compassionate self-statements, even after self-criticism, has been found to improve the quality of the feelings toward ourselves.

It is important to notice that the aim is not to avoid taking responsibility for our mistakes by justifying them, but rather to approach them differently. We can acknowledge that:

  • The outcome was not as expected

  • Future actions need to be re-evaluated

  • Accept that we are imperfect

  • We did what we thought to be the best at that moment

  • We may or may not able to improve the situation

  • We can do better

“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves

that we would give to others.”

Christopher Germer

Making positive self-statements aloud reduces self-disparaging thoughts and improves the way we perceive ourselves.

Demonstrate compassion for our own suffering, strengthen also self-regulation skills efficiently, and build stronger safety feelings. Practising self-soothing activities enhances positive emotions like satisfaction, security, and self-appreciation.

By keeping the good practice, the outcome is:

  • A stronger capability to self-soothe when challenged

  • An increased competence to act compassionately toward others

  • An improved ability to face distress

  • A decrease of impulsive reactions

  • An improved ability to deal with physical and emotional pain

What if the mirror compassionate self-talk feels weird?

Go ahead, because it will feel weird for quite a few days. We generally don't use mirrors to talk to ourselves, we just use them to check how we look like. But mirrors also allow us to focus the attention on ourselves and are great tools for improving self-awareness. Still, it is appalling how unloving we can be when we first look at ourselves in the mirror.

The mirror magnifies the inner state, and a lack of clear intention when you are looking at yourself can elicit an automatical self-critical talk. It is essential to notice your thinking process when you first begin to practice and allow yourself the time to get used to the practice; also, when it means to feel some discomfort in the meantime.

“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”

Amy Bloom

Can the mirror amplify the effect of compassionate self-talk?

It appears to be so, but you can try it yourself and see the results.

Write four soothing sentences that resonate with you. Below are some examples

  • It is tough at the moment, but you will manage this.

  • This is draining; I trust and love you.

  • What you don't like about yourself are the parts that need more attention and love.

  • I'm here for you, and I will be here forever.

  • I love and approve of you the way you are.

  • I forgive myself for.....

Repeat the phrases you choose while looking at yourself in the mirror. Do the exercise at least three times a day for three weeks. Participants of a study showed a stronger improvement when repeating the exercise on a mirror than the participants who simply repeated the sentences aloud. So it seems the mirror does make a difference when it comes to compassionate self-talk.

Why does the mirror amplify compassionate self-talk?

While we find our face familiar, we generally don't compassionately think about ourselves and tend to be critical instead. Talking to a mirror disconnects the unempathetic talk; it rewires our mind to speak to ourselves as we would to someone we love. And as we generally tend to be more empathetic to others than ourselves, we manage to reduce the unempathetic discussion while looking ourselves in the eyes. We begin to change our self-talk to a more positive and compassionate one. This exercise shows benefits in adults but also teenagers.

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh

Is for adolescents learning self-compassion important?

Adolescents face many changes, adolescence lasts a long time span; it begins around 11 and lasts until approximately 25 years of age; adaptation to all these changes requires a lot of mental flexibility. It is very important to help them experience how self-compassion and a non-judgemental mindset can make the journey a little less scary. Self-compassion teaches them to accept and love themselves exactly as they are. Self-acceptance is for adolescents critical to face every day's difficulties.

Allowing adolescents to build a space to self-soothe is crucial for emotional self-regulation, and we can teach them how to do it.

Self-compassion tools

To help people measure their self-compassion level, Kristin Neff developed a self-compassion scale. Moreover, on her official website, she also developed some self-compassion exercises.

Journalling about your experiences or fears helps increase mindfulness. Adding mindfulness and positive self-talk to your self-compassion practice influence the results. Social benefits are also increased by maintaining a proper self-care routine, as feeling fulfilled in the way you experience life improves the ability to empathise with others.

If you have more questions about self-compassion, feel free to contact me.

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