Mirror work is strange, uncomfortable, undeniably intimidating, a little embarrassing …
… but also profoundly healing.
Of all the spiritual methods of inner work available to us in the 21st century, mirror work is one of the simplest and most powerful.
Unlike many pathways to inner growth out there, you don’t have to go out and splurge large amounts of money or time.
Thankfully, mirror work is a practice that is freely available to anyone – all you need is a mirror! And nearly all of us already have access to one.
If you’re looking for a simple, practical, and deeply transformative practice that can become a daily habit of self-love, look no further than your bathroom mirror.
(Note: if you’d like to go deeper into your mirror work practice, see our Illuminating the Unconscious Bundle, which also has a “Book of Mirrors” resource for doing mirror work journaling!)
Table of contents
What is Mirror Work?
Mirror Work was a method originally developed by inspirational teacher Louise Hay as a way of getting in touch with the inner self. The primary purpose of mirror work is to develop self-love, self-care, and a more meaningful relationship with others.
By simply looking into the mirror for a certain amount of time each day and gently talking to yourself, you can foster a more compassionate and forgiving connection with yourself.
Why It’s Normal to Feel Uneasy in Front of the Mirror
I have a challenge for you:
Go sit or stand in front of the mirror in your house for five minutes. Simply stare at yourself and hold gentle eye contact. That’s all you have to do.
Now tell me how you feel.
If you’re like most people, you’ll feel uncomfortable. You may feel awkward, unsettled, embarrassed, or emotional. You might even notice patterns of self-loathing and self-criticism arise.
Why does this happen?
As Louise Hay writes in her book Mirror Work:
The mirror reflects back to you the feelings you have about yourself. It makes you immediately aware of where you are resisting and where you are open and flowing. It clearly shows you what thoughts you will need to change if you want to have a joyous, fulfilling life.
In other words, in front of the mirror, there is no hiding. In front of the mirror, we catch an intimate (and sometimes painful) glimpse into the relationship we have with ourselves.
Mirror work can make us feel initially uneasy because it exposes our inner critic in plain daylight.
Suddenly everything we feel about ourselves that we might not be aware of comes to the surface. And if you haven’t developed a compassionate relationship with yourself, you might be prone to believing all the nastiness whispered in your ear by your inner critic.
Spiritual Awakening & Mirror Work
As a symbol of truth and clarity, mirrors are one of the most ancient and direct ways of accessing self-realization.
Some of the earliest uses of mirrors date back to Anatolia (now called Turkey) from 6,000 to 8,000 BC. These ancient mirrors were made out of obsidian, which itself is a stone symbolic of psychological purification, shadow integration, and protection.
By using a mirror to consciously access the inner layers of our being, we gently remove the blocks and untie the knots preventing our ability to grow and evolve. Indeed, mirror work can facilitate a deepening of our spiritual awakening process.
Mirror Work and Reconnecting With the Inner Child
Another reason why mirror work can make us feel uncomfortable is that it exposes the vulnerable and neglected parts of our inner selves.
After all, what better opportunity for that forgotten part to finally grab our attention than face-to-face in front of a mirror?
Most of us have numerous abandoned inner parts, but the most common one that we’re disconnected from is the inner child.
We all possess an inner child – it’s one of the many archetypes (or patterns of energy) that compose our personality structures. The inner child is the part of us that still retains a sense of childlike wonder, spontaneity, creativity, and joy.
On the other hand, our inner child also possesses many of our primal and core wounds. Thus, learning how to relate to and liberate our inner child is crucial.
Mirror work is an intensely effective way of helping us to re-establish a connection with this delicate part of ourselves.
When looking into the mirror and trying to reconnect with the inner child, it’s not unusual to feel waves of sadness wash over you. You may also experience unexpected bubbles of excitement or joy. But typically, it’s common to experience heavier and more uncomfortable emotions first.
Although this kind of mirror work can be upsetting and unpleasant at times, these feelings point to deeper work that is alchemizing at a subconscious level.
Simply gazing at yourself in the mirror and comforting your inner child can be a tremendously healing practice and a powerful form of inner child work. The more emotions you experience, the more a sacred kind of purging and transformation is happening.
Mirror Work as a Portal into Your Soul
The eyes are the mirrors to the Soul as the old saying goes, and mirror work gives you direct access to this core part of your being.
However, it’s not always possible to directly connect with your deeper Self. Most people first experience a harsh inner critic that arises and serves as a doorkeeper to the deeper psyche.
To make it past that harsh doorkeeper, you must learn to disarm it through mindfulness and self-compassion. It’s at this point where inner work practices such as self-love become vital to work through your insecurities and self-resentments.
But how do you know that you’re reconnecting with your Soul?
I can’t answer that question for everyone.
But for me, the presence of my Soul emerges when my face softens, my eyes become warmer and more compassionate, a slight smile enters my face, and a lighter form of energy fills my body. I also tend to feel like I’m being drawn inwards into an embrace.
As magical or mystical as that may sound, using mirror work as a portal to your Soul is actually quite natural. There is nothing phantasmagorical about it – it feels like returning home to the truest, most whole, and wisest part of yourself.
How to Practice Mirror Work (Step-By-Step Guide)
There are no official methods of doing mirror work – although you can try the 21-day practice developed by Louise Hay in her book.
Personally, I prefer to tailor mirror work to myself and my own needs. Here are some of the fundamental principles of mirror work that you might like to keep in mind if you want to create your own practice:
- Use affirmations that feel authentic to you (I’ll explain this more below)
- Dedicate at least two minutes every day
- Do mirror work in private so that you aren’t disturbed (or feel the need to keep your guard up)
- It’s okay to feel emotional – let yourself feel whatever comes up
- Keep a journal where you record any notable experiences (I’ll explain this more below)
With that being said, here’s a simple step-by-step guide to mirror work that you can use and adapt to your own needs:
1. Commit yourself
Mirror work creates the deepest changes when it’s done consistently over a long period of time. I recommend dedicating a minimum of two minutes a day, with ten minutes or more being ideal.
2. Think about the best time of day
Mirror work is flexible and can work around your schedule. Most people like doing mirror work in the early morning and late at night before going to bed.
You can also do mirror work during the day as you pass mirrors. If there are no mirrors in your workplace, you can always use the selfie option on your phone (where you turn the camera towards yourself).
You can find a private spot (such as in a bathroom cubicle) to do this exercise while at work.
3. Choose or create your own affirmation
Why use affirmations, you might wonder?
Affirmations counteract the negative self-talk that runs through our heads – they also help to reprogram our minds.
When we use affirmations, we are affirming something that we like about ourselves or something positive we wish to give ourselves.
You may like to create your own affirmation spontaneously based on how you feel when you look in the mirror. For example, if you feel ugly in that moment of time, you can affirm to yourself, “I have a beautiful heart and soul” or whatever feels most authentic to you.
If you feel uncomfortable in your own presence, you can affirm, “It’s okay to feel uncomfortable, I accept myself as I am.”
Alternatively, you can choose from a list of affirmations and experiment with using one affirmation each day (or one for a week). Here are some examples:
- I’m learning to love you
- I’m willing to take care of you
- I love how thoughtful/caring/sincere/____ you are
- I am worthy of love
- I am enough
- I am exactly who I need to be in this moment
- It’s okay for me to feel scared
- It’s okay for me to feel sad
- It’s okay for me to feel awkward
- I love how unique my body is
- I am beautiful
- I am whole
- I lovingly embrace my fears
- I am fierce and strong
- I trust in my natural wisdom
- I am open and receptive
- I believe in myself
You can find a longer list of affirmations in our morning affirmations article.
A note on affirmations: If you’re creating your own affirmations, please ensure that you keep them phrased in a positive way. Many practitioners who work with affirmations (such as those who study NLP) assert that the unconscious mind does not understand negatives and will translate any negatively phrased affirmation in reverse. For example, instead of saying “I am not worthless, I am worthy” say, “I am worthy.” Or instead of saying, “I will not be mean to myself” say, “I treat myself with kindness.”
Also, the point of affirmations isn’t to sugarcoat how you feel.
If you genuinely can’t say to yourself in the mirror “I love you” then don’t!
The point isn’t to be disingenuous, the point is to offer sincere love to yourself.
If an affirmation such as “I love and accept you” feels too difficult, focus on a milder affirmation such as “I am learning to love and accept you” or “I want to love and accept you more.”
4. Repeat your affirmation (with feeling)
Repeat your affirmation to yourself at least ten times, whether out loud or in your head.
Some people will recommend at least 100 times – but that can seem overwhelming when you’re just beginning this practice!
Certainly, the more you repeat your affirmation with sincerity, the deeper impact it will make. So try to set a realistic number and stick to it. You can always increase the number of times you say your affirmation while doing mirror work as you progress.
Also, when saying your affirmation, it’s important to look at yourself directly in the eyes.
You may also like to use your own name as this sends a powerful message to your unconscious. For example, you may wish to say, “I appreciate how caring you are [insert your name here]”, “I love you [insert your name here].”
5. Embrace any emotions that arise
It’s normal and okay to feel upset. If you feel the need to cry, let yourself – you’re releasing old ways of being, and that is powerful work!
You may also wish to give yourself a hug, which is also wonderfully therapeutic.
It’s highly likely that you’ll feel emotional at some point and that’s because the old frozen pain within you (that has built up through the years) is bubbling to the surface.
Sometimes the emotions we feel during mirror work are from childhood, particularly if they’re intense. If this is the case, comfort your inner child by acknowledging him/her within you as you look at the mirror. You may wish to say words such as, “It’s okay, I see you, I understand,” “I’m here for you,” “I love how brave you are little [insert name],” etc.
A note about men doing mirror work: Feeling and expressing emotions will likely be more difficult for men than for women. Why? Men are conditioned to perceive stoicism as a true measure of manliness – but the truth is that being “stoic” can sometimes be confused with emotional repression.
There’s nothing courageous about avoiding emotions. If you’re a man, you’ll need extra reassurance and compassion through this stage of the work. Have some deep and powerful affirmations on hand and the willingness to see your emotional openness as true strength.
6. Place a hand over your heart
Sometimes, mirror work can feel particularly intense. If you feel overwhelmed by any experience, you’re always free to walk away and come back to it later.
However, often what’s let through into your conscious mind is just the right amount for you to handle (that is, after all, the role of the psyche and the ego in particular).
To help you process any strong feelings and ground yourself in your body, try placing a gentle hand over your heart. This simple action helps you to remain embodied and connected with love.
You can read more about this practice in our deep listening article.
7. Record your discoveries
It’s crucial during the course of your mirror work to keep a journal.
Don’t worry about being a great writer. Ignore spelling and grammar – they’re irrelevant. The point of recording your discoveries is to help you spiritually integrate what you’ve learned.
You also don’t need to worry about writing longwinded paragraphs if that doesn’t suit you – simply write a sentence or two. Record how you feel and what thoughts, feelings, or sensations arose within you.
There’s no need to keep a mirror work journal every day, but it’s important to write in this journal when you’ve had a particularly important experience that triggered emotions or epiphanies.
By keeping a journal, you’ll be able to track your evolution and progress, having something to come back to in the future and reflect upon.
Learn more about how to journal.
Mirror work is deceptively simple but tremendously empowering. So much healing work can be done by simply looking at yourself in the mirror and expressing self-loving affirmations.
One of the most amazing side benefits of mirror work is how it impacts your relationships. By learning how to love yourself more, life becomes more harmonious and your connections with others blossom and flourish.
And finally, mirror work helps to facilitate and deepen our spiritual awakening, aiding us in gaining clarity and inner illumination.
If you’ve dabbled with this fascinating tool or are a loyal advocate, share with me your experiences. What part of mirror work is the most difficult for you? What epiphanies or revelations have you had?
In fact I started doing this few weeks ago. Every time I find myself in front of the mirror I close my eyes, concentrate on my heart, then open my eyes and look straight in. I say Namaste, and smile. Sometimes I say – the divine in me honors the divine in you. Feels very good! But I will try now to look into my eyes for 5 minutes straight. Im interested to see how that will feel. Thanks for the article.
This article appeared in my inbox today and is nothing short of a miraculous sychronicity A thousand thank yous!!
“We know….what we know….and know…. no more than we know we know until He knows….we need know more than we know….and know no more than we know we know.”
“Know your strenghts…..and use them wisely. Know your weaknesses…..and allow them to become your strengths.”
Your work to help others is excellent i appreciate. Reading it
There was a time when I didn’t like the mirror. It showed all my weaknesses and all that I wanted to change on a physical level. I wanted “more of this” and “less of that” so to speak. Years ago I read an article that stated to smile every time you look in the mirror and to say positive affirmations. I’ve been doing that every morning since I read that article and it honestly has made a difference for me. I have learned to accept all my weaknesses and strengths because I am exactly who I’m supposed to be! Perfectly imperfect.
This article was amazing because it was a reminder for me. A reminder that I can get through anything even with something as simple as looking into a mirror. Sometimes you gotta rip off that bandage and see things for what they are. There are so many benefits in doing that!!!!
Thank you for such a great article!!!!!
Lots of love,
Mateo, this is another awesome one :) I am very happy to have taken a few minutes to really read through this and confirm that I am on a successful path to instituting what mirror work I’ve committed to thus far.
Beyond therapeutic, it is amazing to achieve self-awareness through these techniques then see what is reflected around us as well. The environment we are in is a wonderful reflection of our inner selves- of course, dependent upon how we see it ;)
Thank you for all ya’ll bring to attention; so glad to have found your mailing list again! Such confirmations- now I’ve gotta work on some more affirmations :D
If you examine people’s photo’s at length- you will notice that each eye reflects different aspects of a person. When I started to do mirror work a while back I also noticed that each of my eyes was different. The right one reflected more inner qualities: deep inner feelings, inner pain, vulnerabilities, insecurities, and more of my inner child. My left eye was more of what I showed to the world; the outer part of who I am-my social self. It also seemed to reveal my wise, encouraging higher self. Sometimes one eye will be more dominant in brightness and appearance then the other-depending on what I am working on. When I first started the work-I noticed that my right eye seemed dull and lifeless. It seemed to reflect that I had neglected/rejected this vulnerable part of myself. When I observed this in the mirror I started to cry- and then noticed deep sadness in that eye-as if it felt grief because I had rejected it for so long.. But after a week or so of really connecting with this part-my right eye seemed to have energy and life to it. It felt alive because I had acknowledged and accepted… Read more »
I’ve been working a lot on positive affirmations and improving my self esteem, and feel I’ve come a long way. Even so, I found myself getting emotional as I read this article. My love and acceptance of myself has grown tremendously so I’m not sure why I had such a powerful reaction when reading the list of affirmations, particularly the “it’s okay to be…” bullets. For some reason reading it from someone else hit me harder than when I say it to myself (which is often).
Without knowing it, I used affirmations to suppress and not listen to my self-talk; in a way telling myself: “I am wrong”, “I am bad” to think or say that about myself, my relations with people/work. A new imaginative concept came to me a several weeks ago. I picture “my trains of thought”, as actual trains with writing on them. The trains of thought that keep me struck in self-depressive mode I picture as train-cars that are dented, rusted, ruined. making lots of noise and difficulty in running along tracks that are in bad repair. And to the left in my mind’s eye, I see, bright, shiny new train cars with positive messages about myself, that are running smoothly on solid firm tracks. The key is to hear how I am talking to myself in the moment – and then assign what ‘train of thought’ is operating. If I notice it’s the “breaking down” train cars that are running, I simply say: “Ah, ok.”, and turn to the left in my mental picture to see the positive train cars and put fuel into them, so that I can shift my disposition in the moment and make a choice in the… Read more »