Mirroring - A Key To Understanding Yourself

by Catherine Pratt

Everything is a mirror

I found this "Everything is a Mirror" stone in a stress relief store recently. I’d heard the expression before but didn’t really understand it. I definitely didn't realize how valuable of a tool it can be to understanding yourself.

I now believe there are different types of mirroring. One is when people mirror exactly what you're feeling. For example, you're annoyed with your boss so you find other people who also don't like him so you can vent your feelings. Sometimes described as, “misery loves company” or "birds of a feather flock together". When you believe certain things about the world, you'll find others that believe the exact same thing. You're angry at the world so all you see is anger everywhere. That’s the first kind we’re the most familiar with.

The More Important Side of Mirroring

Everyone is a mirror image of yourself - your own thinking coming back at you. Byron Katie

Then there’s a different side of mirroring which I think is much more fascinating. It happens when people are showing you your own innermost beliefs, beliefs you may not even be aware you have. It can be the key to understanding yourself in ways you've never thought of before. With this type of mirroring you won’t find that people think like you instead you will find that they will treat you exactly how you feel about yourself.

So, if you find that everyone is always late for meetings with you, or that your relationships always fail, or that people don't seem to respect you or seem to keep putting you down, you may need to figure out, “how do I feel about myself deep inside?”.

A Real Life Mirroring Example

Here's an example from my life. I got three emails in one day from a friend who was angry with me because I wouldn't change my schedule in order to meet with her on a particular day. She told me she thought I was incredibly self centered and that I believed I was the only person in the world who had problems. At first it totally annoyed me and all I could think was that she was completely wrong and what a mean thing to say. I felt so angry at her.

Whenever I notice I'm reacting to something with anger, I know it's a sign of, "Hey, something is happening here. Pay attention. There's something valuable to learn here." My anger was a sign that I needed to take a closer look at this situation and figure out what was really going on behind the scenes. I needed to know why her comments were bothering me so much. My reaction was pointing out that there was much more going on here than it first appeared.

The first thing I had to do was let go of my defensive feelings. I needed to take a step back and look at it more like the viewpoint of a witness to the event. What had happened? What had I done, what had she done, why might she be feeling that way and why was I feeling angry?

I thought about the event from a few different angles. I thought about her comments that I was self centered and only focused on my own problems. I had to ask myself if it was true? I have to admit there probably are times when I'm caught up in my own issues and I'm not thinking about others but I didn't think that was the real issue going on here. I then thought it was similar to how someone else in my life will behave when she wants to convince me to do something I don't want to do. The old guilt trip thing. This friend had also used this bullying technique with me before (as a side note: need to reconsider this friendship or discuss that it's not acceptable to treat me that way). Possibly this was what was happening in this current situation. I had told her no on something and she  wanted me to change my mind but I still thought there was more to it than that.

So, that was interesting but it got even more fascinating when I realized that the main reason I felt so angry at her was because she wasn't valuing my time. I was supposed to change my schedule and drop everything for her. She wasn't willing to budge with her schedule at all. Why was it me that had to do that? The other issue that was going on was that she really didn't have time for me and she had grudgingly told me she could make time for me around events she considered far more valuable than spending time with me. It was hurtful to me to realize I wasn't important enough to her to want to make time for me. It felt like she was saying she didn't really want to get together but she felt obligated and why wasn't I grateful to her for taking the time she offered?

I then figured out that this is something that is going on in almost all my relationships. People are too busy and don't have time for me. Work, friends, family, etc. It was happening everywhere. This was a pattern I hadn't seen so clearly before. It was a painful thought but by now I was also curious as to why this was happening.

The eye opening moment occurred when I suddenly realized that the problem was because I wasn't valuing my own time.  If I didn't feel that spending time with me was important, how could they? I would even "tell" them how to treat me by saying things like:

  • "I know you're really busy, so whenever you have time."
  • "I can work around your schedule."
  • "Don't worry about me. I'm totally flexible about when I can go."

The real problem... We feel we are not good enough and there is a lack of self-love. Louise Hay

I was basically telling them that my time wasn't as important as their time. It also comes across as saying I wasn't worth spending time with or at least I wasn't worth going to any effort to make room in their schedule. It gave the impression that if they had time for me then they should see me but not if they had to make any extra effort to do it. It all came down to the fact that I wasn't respecting myself or my time so how could they?

Mirroring Reveals Deeper Beliefs

It was the key to discovering an even bigger belief

The next big revelation occurred when I asked myself, "Why don't I value my own time? Why do I drop everything that's important to me and do what others ask? Am I just trying to please others?"

By digging further and asking questions like these and then pausing to listen for an answer from deep within, I then realized the really big reason why I was doing this was because I didn't feel like I was important or valuable. Others were but I wasn't.

All these situations where people didn't have time for me and I would end up feeling hurt that they didn't think I was important enough to make time for was because they were simply mirroring my own belief. I didn't value my own time because I didn't think of myself as important. A belief which I hadn't known about myself. It was a life altering experience.

When you tell a different story internally, you live a different reality externally - Steven Rice

Since I've become aware of this, I've noticed that people are treating me differently. It’s amazing how even just the awareness of an issue can create dramatic changes in your life.

Steven Rice in his book,

An Imperceptible Spark: Finding the Courage to Live a Life of Joy has a great quote which says, "When you tell a different story internally, you experience a different reality externally." It's so true. When you stop telling yourself that you have no value or aren't good enough and start accepting yourself and believing in your own self-worth, then your life completely changes.

I've only had to make small changes to how I used to respond to people and it's made a huge difference. Now instead of simply saying, "Whenever you have time," I'll actually take the time to think about the request and consider when would be the best time for me. I take that moment to value my own time and think about when would be best. I can then answer something like, "I'm free Thursday afternoon. Does that work for you?"

The biggest change though is the intention behind my answer. I value my time first before I give my response. I also remember that I am important and valuable. I need to respect myself and also value myself.

An interesting result of this is that when I do this, I'm also valuing the other person more too. I know how important my time is so I know their time is important to them as well. 

The one other fascinating result this change in belief has had is that I think the other person now values much more the time we do spend together. I know I'm valuable and important and so do they now. Now instead of thinking that they don't really have time for me, they want to make time for me.

Moving On From Old Beliefs

Having sudden revelations about an inner belief has the huge benefit that once you're aware of it, you can let it go. You suddenly have a magical moment when you understand why you've been acting and reacting to events like you have been. You then realize it's not something you want to continue to believe.

The negative belief you had about yourself suddenly loses all its power over you.

That negative belief no longer has a hold on you because you've brought it forward to your conscious mind. Before it would have been working away in the subconscious always feeling hurt when someone triggered it. You would react to the hurt feeling but never really understand why it hurt so much. Once you gain the awareness, there's no turning back. You have the huge "AHA" moment and you don't need to keep it anymore. Also, once you know what you've been doing to hurt yourself, you stop doing it. You suddenly realize it's not helping you so you need to change it. Quite often too, you just suddenly have that deep knowing that the belief isn't true. Someone else might have created that thought in your head long ago but it's not true and you don't need it anymore.

You may still have to work through some issues and heal past hurts that originally created this belief in your mind but so many times you'll find that by simply bringing it to the light, you can then let it go. Previously it was something you may not have even known why you always did something like sabotaging yourself or letting others walk all over you. Now when you feel the familiar hurt you instantly know why and will change your course of action.

Also, if someone triggers that old feeling of hurt, you'll know, "Oh, it's because it's triggering my old belief that I'm not important." You'll find you don't react to others as defensively or negatively as you might have in the past. Comments won't hurt as much either because you'll realilze it's reminding you that you don't need that belief anymore or reminding you that you've slipped back into bad habits of not valuing yourself enough.

Each time you take the time to pay attention to how and why you're reacting in a certain way, you get stronger and stronger in your new beliefs like you're valuable or important

Anger is A Valuable Tool

So, the next time you find yourself reacting with anger or noticing a pattern about how people treat you, start digging deeper and ask yourself why might this be happening? What are your underlying beliefs? Then dig even deeper and get to the true root of your inner beliefs and thoughts.

Your reaction to the event is the most important aspect not what the other person did or said. Your emotions are trying to tell you something and you might be surprised by the information you get. You may discover a part of you that needs healing and once you do that, you've dramatically changed your life for the better.

As you can see from my experience, the aspect of yourself which is being mirrored isn't always instantly obvious. Sometimes it takes a little searching to truly understand what's happening. It's very much worth it though as once you discover that key to understanding yourself, there's no going back. It's like you've been given an incredible gift. Once you know, you can question the belief and work with it instead of it working against you.

As Byron Katie says in her book, I Need Your Love - Is That True?, "Often with pain and depression, there are thoughts you've had for so long and held so close that you don't even know they are there. And you've never stopped to see if you even believe them."

So, look around, what are people telling you about your own internal beliefs?

Additional Reading about Mirroring

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