So far in this theme of Befriending Ourselves During Change, we have explored the benefits of showing compassion for ourselves and replacing the pull of the ‘shoulds’ with our freedom of choice.
With compassion, we begin to accept ourselves as we are, instead of how we think we should be. By making choices about whether or not we will or won’t partake in a specific belief or action, we regain our personal power while diminishing the social pull behind the word should.
Both of these approaches help us to feel more empowered, which is especially important during times of change when we are at our most vulnerable.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall...
Today we will consider one additional approach, and, to be honest, it is a bit out there. It’s called Magic Mirror, and similar to the magic mirror in Snow White, it tells us what we want to hear. Except there’s a twist.
By filling the mirror with words and perceptions we want others to feel about us, and then placing ourself in the position of that persona (aka the mirror), we reflect those things we want others to feel about us onto ourselves.
In short, through this technique, we employ our powers of empathy to use on ourselves.
You see, we are often our own worst critics, and tend to have a warped, distorted view of ourselves, and this can be especially prevalent during change, when we find ourselves traversing the path of uncertainty and new learning.
For some of us, the view of ourselves is positive, but for many, this view is nit picky, judgmental, somewhat (or really) negative, and often influenced by fear, worry and anxiety.
With this technique, we shift the perceptions we hold about ourselves by making an energetic jump into the eyes of another.
We’ll create a persona, and infuse it with emotions and words that represent how we want to be seen (not how we think we are actually seen).
Creating personas of people we know increases the risk of self-judgment in this exercise, so the persona we create will be of a faceless and nameless stranger. It represents a vessel from which we can objectively perceive ourselves, and nothing more.
Once we’ve made this empathetic jump, we then view ourselves from the outside looking in - the way we want others to perceive us - and those perceptions are then projected onto ourselves, allowing us to receive the positive emotions reflected by this persona.
The result is a sense of well-being and the ability to quickly and effectively boost our confidence, self-esteem, sense of belonging, sense of worthiness, or really, anything we want.
We are the designers in how we want others to see us, and so we create the words to infuse which are then reflected back into ourselves.
With repetition, we begin to feel more complete, and are able to shed the personal chains that bind us to our current mindset, allowing us the freedom to shift our perspective and make that quantum leap of change.
I define empathy as the ability to put ourselves in the perspective of another person, which is commonly referred to as putting ourselves in another person’s shoes.
This is different from sympathy, where we feel for the other person. With empathy, we feel with the other person. It is as though we are experiencing the world through that person's point of view.
Persona, for purposes of this exercise, represents a nameless, faceless, person. Basically a vessel we can fill with our own words and emotions and through which we can see ourselves.
Those of us who are highly empathetic might have an easier time with this exercise than others. But with practice and perseverance, I believe anyone can reap the rewards with the added benefit of developing general empathy muscles as well, which in my view is a good thing. Empathy breeds compassion, and the more compassion we can have for others, as well as for ourselves, the better.
This is an unusual and challenging exercise which can be compared to one of those 3-D Vision Puzzles. It is difficult to do at first, but once we learn the technique, we can invoke it quickly thereafter. Let’s get to the specifics:
The nuts and bolts.
We are going to develop one persona, but the exercise can be repeated using different words and emotions as desired.
These personas should never represent anyone we know. They are to be faceless, nameless people. It is what we fill them with that matters, and giving them identity complicates our ability to put ourselves into that persona.
Here’s the general technique:
Keep it in neutral.
There are more personas to this exercise than presented in this blog (please send a note if you’re interested in going deeper into this technique), and they become increasingly difficult to create because we want to use the faces and personalities of people we know.
Even when creating personas of strangers, we might feel compelled to do this, but I strongly caution against it, and here’s why:
Once you’ve given it a try and gotten the basics down, play around with the personas.
If, for example, you are about to head into a job interview, create a persona that represents how you want to appear to the interviewers; knowledgeable, enthusiastic, quick thinker, reliable and responsible, a team-player, confident, or whatever you want.
It becomes easier to believe these things about ourselves when seen through the eyes of another, and when we believe them, we become them. So play with it, have fun, and please let me know how it goes!
Coming up, the conclusion to our theme of Befriending Ourselves During Change.
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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