Step 3: Clean the Mirror
Slide 3 of 5
When our mirror is dirty or cloudy, we are unable to get an accurate picture of ourselves. Both our lovely and not-so-lovely features are distorted. It’s time to clean the mirror.
Everyone has a unique relational beauty—a remarkable skill or characteristic that helps them succeed in relating with others. For some it’s compassion; for others, it’s wisdom, generosity, resilience, empathy, kind humor, and the like.
You’re no different. Even if your past was pock-marked with pain, your life has beauty. When you look in the mirror at who you’ve become today, you’ll see the people, places, events, and environments of your story where good seeds were planted.
Over time, those seeds grew into your exceptional traits.
Take some moments and name those remarkable traits in yourself, and then explore their origins. My guess is that you received positive messages in your earlier years, whether verbally (from people of influence in your life) or circumstantially (from lessons you learned).
You subconsciously took in messages about yourself that play out over and over—and today you can see the benefit of those positive messages in how you relate to others.
In my story, I received positive reinforcement from my father to work hard. As such, I have lived my entire life with the underlying message, “Only hard workers succeed in this world.” Today, I’m a resourceful and industrious person, and to a large degree, I have my father to thank.
A dirty mirror distorts reality and allows inaccurate, negative messages from our past to adversely impact our relationships. Identifying and addressing these distortions are key to improving our relationships and doing the rest of our lives better.
When we were very young, we lacked the understanding or ego strength to accurately interpret our experiences. We did the best we could to make sense of the world through the profound limits of a child’s mind.
Given those limitations, none of us escaped our developing years without coming to believe—often subconsciously—some things about ourselves and others that may feel true but are not true. Sometimes these distortions are devasting, such as:
“I must be bad. I made Dad so mad he had to punch me again.”
“I must be better than others because my family has a nice house and car.”
More often, the distortions are more subtle:
“If I disappoint others, I will be rejected.”
“Conflict is bad.”
“Anger is the most effective way to get what you need.”
We all enter into adulthood with distorted messages about ourselves, the world, God, and how it all fits together. We may tell ourselves that we really don’t believe those messages, but when we get relationally challenged, threatened, or frightened, our emotional brains kick into autopilot, and we behave as if the distorted messages were true.
Those subterranean messages rule the day far more than we are aware or care to admit. They contribute to unhelpful relational patterns that keep us stuck.
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