“Look in a mirror everyday–look directly into your own eyes–and tell yourself, ‘I love
“Um . . . .what?” I thought. My disturbed expression gave away my feeling of utter horror to the sweet friend who made the suggestion.
“Just do it, Jill. Look into your own eyes. Send love to yourself.”
“Okay,” I conceded–and I wasn’t lying; I intended to do it, but I was in no way comfortable with the idea. I mean, who does this?
My first attempt was awkward. I was sitting at my kitchen table with a hand mirror. I tried looking directly into my eyes, but I was distracted by other parts of my face–like my eyebrows that desperately needed to be shaped or my ever-deepening crow’s feet. I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but I took a deep breath, focused my eyes directly on my eyes and gave it a go:
“I love you.”
I wanted to feel love when I said it–I wanted to feel something!–but I didn’t feel anything at all. “How do people actually do this?” I asked myself. “I can share love with others, but when it comes to sharing love with myself, I really do not even know how.” Then I remembered a prayer I learned at a local Unity Church, a prayer the congregation recites when honoring someone:
We love you. We bless you. We appreciate you. We behold the Christ in you.
I have said that prayer many times for many people, and I still do. It serves as an offering of positive energy and affirmative support, and I can say it sincerely and authentically even if I don’t know the person I am saying it for. Since I am able to say this prayer for a total stranger and mean it, I figured I should be able to say it for myself and mean it, so I tried: I looked directly into the pupil of my left eye and said, “I love you.” Then I shifted my gaze into the pupil of the my right eye and said: “I bless you.” Left eye: “I appreciate you.” Right eye: “I behold the Christ in you. Amen.” Now that approach actually felt good–and the next day I did it again. And then the day after, I did it again.
This practice has now become a very pleasurable experience for me; in fact, upon reflection I realize it is not as crazy as it sounds. Think of it this way: Babies need to bond with their parents. That bonding is physiological and emotional. It happens over time through touching and embracing, through talking and cooing, and gazing into baby’s eyes. This bonding sets the stage for the baby’s sense of security and sense of self worth. Many of us, sadly, never actually bond to our own selves. We do not nurture a sense of worth within. but we can. Looking into our own eyes with love is one way to do it.
Think, too, of the question St. Paul asked the Corinthians in his first letter to them: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? If our bodies are temples, it stands to reason that our minds and hearts are temples as well. It stands to reason that each of us is a temple, a place where the Divine resides, a holy and sacred place. If we are temples, we should regard ourselves as temples.
For me, an understanding of myself as a temple is definitely newfound, and I am trying to wrap my head around the idea and create an unwavering sense of self worth. Looking into my own eyes and blessing myself doesn’t seem so strange or “weird” anymore. In fact, it is starting to feel natural. I am starting to regard myself differently–as if I am someone in need of my own assistance and care–and I like it.
How would you treat yourself if you could see yourself as a temple– as something sacred and worthy–as a place where the Divine resides? What would you say to yourself? What would you do for yourself? Who would you invite into your life–and who would you uninvite? How would your life change?
Get out a mirror–a small one–and stare into your own beautiful eyes. Say something affirmative to yourself–something that you actually mean. You can use the prayer I use or say a simple “I love you.” Whatever you choose has to feel okay–you can’t say it without believing it. Once you decide, look deeply into your own eyes and say it to yourself in love. It will grow you.
And so it is.
Jill A. Lahnstein is a mother, a teacher, a writer, and a jewelry artist. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with her teenage daughter Angel and their little canine sidekick Sunny. She has spent over 20 years teaching English to college students. Most of her experience has been with those students who are first-generation, economically disadvantaged, or disabled. She fervently believes that every moment–inside the classroom and outside the classroom–can be a healing moment.