Mirror work: does talking to yourself work?

Affirmations are anything that you think or say.


So, whether you are consciously aware or not, all day long you are talking to yourself – telling yourself what to believe and think about yourself, the situation or others.

Affirmations are simply messages we give to our conscious and subconscious mind, to help write neural pathways. If you are trying out positive affirmations, you are trying to write new neural pathways of thinking or feeling about yourself.

Many years ago, Louise Hay published a book: “Mirror work: 21 days to heal your life.” She is considered one of the pioneers in this type of work – of mindfully noticing your own responses and reactions to your affirmations and self-talk.

I invite you, however, to take it a bit further. To really practice mindfulness during your moments of mirror work. Not only to look into your eyes as you speak your affirmations, but also to take the time to become aware of how you hold your mouth as you speak.

  • Do you scrunch your nose or furrow your brow?
  • Can you notice tension in your jaw line?
  • Do you choke on your words?
  • When you look in your eyes, do you see a smile or tension?

Is there resistance or flow?

It’s a great idea, when you are brushing your teeth, putting on your makeup or shaving, to take a moment a look into your own eyes. How are you? Really? What do you see?

Now, take a moment to stand up tall, rolling your shoulders back and allowing them to fall. Give yourself a smile in the mirror, and practice any one of the affirmations that you have chosen.

How does it feel when you say it with a smile? How about with a frown? Then, turn the affirmation into a question, and notice what answer you give yourself.

For example, if your affirmation is “I love myself completely”, the question might be “Do I love myself completely?”. How is this true? What needs to happen in your life today for that to be true?

The beauty of affirmations and mirror work – talking to yourself – is that you get to work with your inner child. That vulnerable part of yourself.

And perhaps, most importantly, you get to see where it isn’t working.

Why affirmations don’t work

If you’ve been doing coaching or personal development work for long, by now you will have experienced for yourself or had someone else swear that affirmations don’t work!

And it’s true.

There are times and places that affirmations don’t work.

The whole reason for doing mirror work is to become aware of the resistance. To see it and experience it – in your face, where you can’t miss it.

There are affirmations that you might try to say that don’t ring true. In fact, for you, they are a blatant lie!

For some people, this might be “I love my body”.

Do you?

If not, you might really struggle on so many levels with this affirmation.

Or perhaps the affirmation is “I am beautiful and confident”. Turn it around

  • “Am I beautiful and confident?”
  • “How am I beautiful and confident?”
  • “When do I feel beautiful and confident?”
  • “What do I need to do in order to feel beautiful and confident?”

How might you reword this affirmation so that it is true and you no longer feel the inner conflict? Perhaps you start by saying “I am willing to learn to feel beautiful and confident” or “I am learning to be beautiful and confident”.

But acknowledge within yourself and your body the resistance and “stuckness” of any affirmation that does not ring true. That you feel in your body “this is a lie”.

That doesn’t mean that an affirmation can’t be a stretch – but it shouldn’t be an impossible stretch. The affirmation needs to resonate with you.

If you aren’t ready to say “I love myself”, perhaps you are ready to say “I am learning to love myself” or “I am willing to learn to love myself”.

When affirmations aren’t working – there is some deep work that you can do! It’s a beautiful opportunity to grow..

Learning to acknowledge your weaknesses

A great way to start affirmations is to make a list of your perceived weaknesses or negative traits. These are things that you believe about yourself – perhaps since childhood. For some of us, these might be thoughts like “I’m not good enough” or “I can never learn new things”.

Make the list and then go through them, and see if there is a common thread or threads: “unworthy” or “no good”.

Then, take some time to just sit with your body, and starting down at your toes, work your way up through your body till you find that place where you are holding this feeling or negative belief.

Are you willing and ready to let this belief go?

Breathe into that area, focusing your attention on the sensations that you feel and the emotion. Imagine that you can simply dissolve it and let it go.

Then, take a moment to write up for yourself a new affirmation – that is true for you, and breathe this positive affirmation back into your body. Into that very spot if you like.

This is simply one example of how you can use your own resistance and negative thoughts to rewrite your thoughts and emotions.

5 steps for using positive affirmations

  1. Mirror work: as we’ve already examined at length, do the work in the mirror with total awareness. Dig deep within. Be wiling to look at your soul.
  2. Consider writing out your affirmations. Try doing this at different times of day – does it make a difference what time of day you do it?
  3. Be honest with yourself when an affirmation doesn’t ring true, recognizing that we all have “off” days. There are going to be days that you simply won’t “feel it”, and that’s okay too. Be willing, on those days, to change the affirmation. If your affirmation was “I am beautiful”, perhaps change it to “Today I don’t feel beautiful, but yesterday I could see it and feel it. I am grateful that I am always ________ (one of your strengths).” It’s always good to have a list of your strengths on hand for days like this!
  4. Walk while you say your affirmations. One of the benefits of walking and saying your affirmations is that it anchors these into your body.
  5. Script them and update them as you grow. Life is not static and neither are you. At the beginning, you might start with something like “I am willing to learn to be ______”, which might then change to “I am learning to be ______” and then at some stage you will be able to move to “I am ________”.

And finally – one of my favorites – use Denials & Affirmations, not simply affirmations. This is something I learnt through my spiritual studies with Unity & New Thought. A denial is a release and letting go of something, and is usually used BEFORE the affirmation.

So, it would go something like this:

I release the fear of growth and transformation, and I lean into learning to love myself.

Putting affirmations and mirror work into practice

Start off making a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Use your strengths as affirmations, and work through your weaknesses. Make your affirmations a celebration that give you more confidence and help you stretch further.

Build into your affirmations your growth, learning and becoming. Include what you are choosing to do and your intentions for each day.

Include denials with your affirmations, so that you can release / deny / reject / let go as appropriate. This will strengthen the power of your affirmations.

Smile at yourself in the mirror. Finish with “I choose to love me today, and the choices I make today will reflect this self-compassion.” Make it easy to say and believe.

Take time, at least once a week, just to look at yourself in the mirror. To really look deep into your own eyes.

See you.

Perhaps for the very first time. Have a good look.

Make time to breathe – to calm yourself and get in touch with you. Imagine you can breathe through your heart and that each breath in draws in love and compassion. And allow that to fill your lungs. As you exhale, imagine that this compassion expands up into your mind and your thoughts. And allow that compassion to guide you as you make say your affirmations.

A little compassion for yourself can go a long way!

Enjoy the journey. And recognize that one difficult hill does not make the road. It’s just a small part of the overall quest of life.

If you are looking for more affirmations, you can find more resources on our page!

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