February is often a month where we tend to prioritize self-love. While loving yourself sounds simple, actually putting it into practice can be really hard and overwhelming. Like with someone else, I believe you need to really get to know yourself before you can truly love yourself and all that you are. Julie Reisler's new book, "Get a PhD in YOU: A Workbook to Miraculous Self-Discovery" is all about doing just that.
Julie was nice enough to share a selection of activities from her book that are all about getting to know yourself and investing in yourself so you can really foster that deep self-connection and self-love. These practices are perfect for incorporating into your self-care routine or journaling practice.
“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
Start your research and reflection
Here’s an even better analogy: scientists are trained to do research. In order to come up with findings to a hypothesis, they have to first do their research. As you embark on your quest of knowing and honoring yourself in order to make change, it’s going to take research, time, growth experiences, and lots of nurturing. Change takes patience, practice, pace, and persistence. It's important to start reflecting on how you really feel about yourself and the internal messages you generate. The following exercises are inspired by my own inner transformation to self-love.
I first became aware of the idea of using a mirror as part of feeling and generating self-love through personal growth teacher and author Louise Hay. Mirror work, as Louise Hay coins it, is essentially the practice of deeply looking at one’s self in the mirror and repeating personal affirmations and messages of self-love.
How do you actually feel about yourself when you look in the mirror. We do it everyday, all the time, be it in an actual mirror or perhaps in the reflection of a store window or in someone else’s sunglasses (yup – I’ve done that too and it’s totally human). To gauge where you are on the self-love spectrum just think of your self-love capacity like a gas tank that is somewhere between empty and full. How full is your self-love tank?
Begin by looking at yourself (in the mirror or, if you're not ready for that, look at a photograph of yourself, etc.). What do you notice? What do you feel about the person looking back into your eyes? Are you feeling connected or as though you haven’t really seen your own self for years? Do you want to cry? Look away? Feeling a tad uncomfy with this practice? Just notice, while trying to do so without judgment. Most days I am able to stare at my own eyes, blow a kiss back to myself, and know that I’m a special divine creature because I’m alive, kickin’ and here to say that out loud. On good days I even feel this in my bones. On other days, I respond to myself with a less-than-kind remark. When that happens, I know I need to sit with the discomfort of not feeling enough or loving myself fully. At these moments I ask myself, “How can I love myself more today so I have more to give others?” or “How can I connect with my higher self, the internal aspect of me that has a divine right to be on the planet.” The physical mirror becomes a pathway connecting my surface self to my true inner self. This practice affirms that all healing, happiness, and peace is created out of love.
The point here is to build a relationship with yourself. I’ve found that learning to truly connect with myself has worked brilliantly with the mirror. Wherever you are along the spectrum of self-love and connection is perfectly fine. It’s information as to how you view yourself – literally – and how you feel about your reflection.
Illuminate Your Inner and Outer Self
My intention is to strengthen your relationship between your inner and outer reflections. If you’re noticing that you want to turn away, laugh or do anything but this exercise, it’s a good idea to start with connecting to your inner self. I’ve outlined below ways to do this. Start with your gifts and what you appreciate about yourself. Nurture and acknowledge your inner self first until you feel grounded, connected and comfortable looking in the mirror while recognizing them.
Here are 3 reflection practices that help connect you to your whole glorious self:
1. Personal Bests Practice. List one area of interest you’re naturally good at and one personal quality you love about yourself (if this feels fun, list 2, 3 or as many as you’d like). __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Your natural interests and the natural qualities of your personality are how you develop and express your most authentic self to the world. Most of us forget the natural gifts we have and use every day to be of service to others and create a life filled with satisfaction. Focus on your gifts and qualities for at least a minute. Allow appreciation, gratitude or whatever feeling comes up to flow and circulate like golden light through your body and mind.
2. Strength Divining Practice. Reflect on your outer and inner strengths. Look into the mirror, embracing and acknowledging what you were born with as a strength (perhaps something like physical stamina or vocal abilities or something less obvious like your ability to laugh at yourself which makes others laugh, too). Consider what strengths you have developed over the years. This might be traits like resilience, persistence, compassion, self-honesty, or empathetic listening. Feel the beauty and power of your outer/inner strengths for 15 seconds. Build to 30 seconds, 45 seconds and eventually 1 minute. It might feel weird at first and that is ok. It’s very normal to shift back and forth from acceptance to judgment. Our minds are designed to generate chatter and to compare. Work on connecting back to your highest self, the YOU that exists and has nothing to do with appearances or what others deem important. Notice what it feels like in your body to acknowledge your strengths. Notice anything different in your eyes or face as you consider your strengths? Maybe you don’t notice anything but you feel a warmth in your chest or uplifting in your spirit. Note what you feel. This is an indication of your increased connection to the essence of you.
3. Loving Looks Practice. Once you feel solid in your ability to look at the mirror and focus on your self, you might decide to try holding your attention on specific parts of your body. What do you see that you can appreciate? Start with your eyes. Notice the black of your pupil. Embrace the outer color of your eyes. What might they be saying to you? Can you appreciate your eyes as the be-holder of all your life experience? Can you find appreciation in having eyes in the first place? Look at your lips. Focus on the shape, creases, color and outline. You took your first breath with these lips, and nourishment and speech flow through these lips. How does it feel to connect more intimately with your eyes, lips and perhaps rest of your face.
Note what is it like to focus on your appearance with appreciation vs. judgment? What other part of your body could use else some love and attention so that you feel like the whole package?
Society creates false standards of beauty and success. When you break from falsely trying to identity with, or compare yourself, to these standards your open yourself to the fuller expression of your true essence.
Daily Magical Practices #1: YOU Declarations
It takes practice to get comfortable with really connecting to YOU and your love for your amazing self. I know this because I practice it daily.
This is a world-changing love investment in YOU. The more we invest in loving ourselves as our unique, authentic, and incredible selves, the more goodness we can give to one another and ultimately to our family, friends, communities, nations, and planet. Making a difference and giving of ourselves to others is one of the most rewarding gifts. In order to love anyone else, we must learn first how to love ourselves. When we take any step forward towards actualizing our best selves, the Universe (God, Higher Power, Divine Goddess, Mother Earth, Source Energy, etc.) always rewards us.
Getting comfy with reflection and declaration time
What you say to yourself impacts how you feel and what you believe. This is a practice that develops clear intention. It allows you to pay attention to the words you choose and how those words make you feel. Want to change how you talk to yourself? Try at least one of these declarations every day. Pick and choose the affirmations that resonate with you. Change it up so you are really hearing it and feeling it. Many of my declarations have been inspired by Louise Hay’s Mirror Work affirmations. If these words don’t feel good, create ones that speak to YOU.
- I love myself.
- I am enough.
- I am whole.
- I am worthy.
- I believe in myself.
- I believe in myself enough to follow my dreams.
- I am learning every day.
- I accept who I am right now.
- I forgive myself for all my past mistakes.
- I trust myself and my decisions.
- My best life is unfolding before my eyes.
- Today, I am joyful and peaceful.
- I am beautiful on the inside and outside.
- I shine my inner light to others in the world.
- I am a unique gift with greatness to share.
- I love all of me and am grateful for my life exactly as it is today.
- I reflect love, joy, light, and ease.
- I am a divine creature here to be my best self in all areas of life.
- I am divinely guided, inspired, and protected.
- I honor my eyes that look back at me and all of my life.
- I see my internal and external beauty and the beauty of everyone.
- As I expand my ability to love myself, I am able to love others more and more.
- I radiate strength, courage, love and peace.
- I am learning how to love myself more and more.
- I appreciate the miracle that I am.
Your turn. Take a stab at it. Try writing your own YOU affirmative declarations.
Reminder: You must master a new way to think before you can master a new way to be. ~Marianne Williamson
Creative Activity: Daily Mirror Magic
I ‘m a creativity appreciator and believe in the power of affirming through action. When I work with clients, I often combine the practice of mirror declarations with the action of creating one’s own Magic Mirror!
Yep, we’re talking about getting crafty here, friends! You are going to make your very own Self-Lovin’ Mirror Magic!
The goal here is to get creative and have fun!
Here’s what you’ll need:
• A handheld mirror (easy to find and inexpensive at a local drug store)
• Ribbon, feathers, beads, stickers, fabric (anything you want for decorating—as elaborate or as simple as you desire)
• Indelible markers (such as black, various rainbow colors, and metallic colors like gold or silver)
• Favorite statement or words related to what you’d like to be reminded of when you look in the mirror
• Beauty comes first from within
• Be You; Everyone else is taken
• I am beautiful on the inside and out
• I radiate light, love, and peace
Affirmative word examples:
Step 1. Arrange all your goodies on a table. Light a gorgeous candle, put on your fave chill music (some of my favorites are the Wailin’ Jennies, James Taylor, and Allison Krauss), and you’re ready to make your very own Magic Mirror.
Step 2. Decorate the back of the mirror with fabrics, glitter, stickers, words, or whatever floats your boat. I love the idea of writing a quote around the interior (reflective side) of the mirror, and perhaps adding a word or two that inspires you. This is going to be your Self-Lovin’ mirror to use daily, so let your imagination go wild.
Step 3. Use your mirror daily to see the best in yourself by reflecting on your true whole beauty inside and out. Let your Magic Mirror be a tool that helps fill up your self-love tank when you are feeling low.
Make it a Daily Habit
Saying the phrase "I love myself" or looking at yourself and repeating "I’m learning to love everything about me internally and externally" has enormous benefits. By doing Mirror Magic every day, you are recreating your truth to be one of self-love. This belief about yourself was not formed overnight, and it will not shift overnight. Change in habit of thought takes time.
I also want you to start practicing saying declarations to yourself using any mirror you come across. Remember, others have no friggin’ idea what you are saying to yourself in your head. Thankfully we can’t hear one another’s inner monologue. I often wink at myself, which reminds me I have eyes to wink with and that life is meant to be joyful and fun.
Let’s say you had a rough conversation with your boss. Use your mirror to remind yourself of how loved you are. Maybe you’re feeling less-than or in a hyper-comparative mode? Go to the bathroom, lock the door and soothe yourself with loving words as you gaze into your mirror. You are learning to give yourself what you need. Yay you!
Changing how you literally see yourself starts with being a reflection of those desired changes during mirror play. You reflect back to yourself your inner light and divinity. This is a gift to YOU and to others because you will continue to reflect that to the planet.
“What if we could pause, take a breath, and choose to see doing the work as a voyage? This is the sweet spot of change on its way.”
Writing prompt: If you want some help focusing on what you learned in this chapter, you can use this writing prompt to begin your journaling.
· “I am beginning to take charge of creating the life I want by...”
Author and Life Designer™ Julie Reisler, is the founder and CEO of Empowered Living. Julie has a Master's Degree in Coaching and more than 12 certifications in health and wellbeing. In Julie’s book, Get a PhD in YOU, A course in miraculous self-discovery (now on Amazon), she authentically shares the extensive personal-growth wisdom that came from her own struggles with body image, relationships, and feeling "not enough." Julie traded limited thinking and damaging habits for honoring and loving herself, and is committed to helping you do the same. Julie now coaches and works with individuals and groups looking to maximize potential and become more purposeful and passionate in their life. Julie is an international speaker, teaches courses for fortune 500 companies, is a faculty member at Georgetown University's Health Coaching program and loves helping you to uncover your best self. She is a mama of two, step-mama of one, happily remarried, and in love with her very imperfect life. For more info on Julie, go to juliereisler.com or www.getaphdinyou.com.