Updated: Mar 16, 2021
We all remember the popular saying from Snow White when the evil witch looks in the mirror and says mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all? Well we know for sure that "fair" is a mental construct made up by humans that does not even exist. What is less well known and worthy of exploring is the concept of "mirroring". I am going to discuss what this entails and how we are given so many opportunities to learn more about ourselves, if we are open to self-awareness and have the courage to face our flaws head on.
Mirroring is when our own imperfections are reflected in the people around us. Most of us do not realize this and we always think that the humans around us are the one's with the problem. It is so much easier for us to see faults in others than it is to see them in ourselves. For example, I may be in a situation where I am discussing my opinion about something to another person. They may think to themselves "she is so judgmental and critical!" However, that person is also being judgmental and critical in the way they are perceiving me, but they do not realize it. They can only see what they perceive to be negative behavior in other people.
We do not like it when we have to see our shadows; those parts of us that we desperately try to hide from ourselves. Instead we try to bury those parts of us and then they only come to light when somebody else does something that triggers a significant reaction in us. Pay attention when this happens because it is our cue that the Universe is trying to show us something about ourselves.
For example, I might think that one of my siblings is self-centered and never worries about anybody but herself. I might even have other siblings who agree with me on this so that reinforces my belief even more. Whenever this sibling is around me and doing what I believe to be self-centered, I am picking her apart and finding evidence of how her behavior is impacting me. All the while, just like her, I am totally focusing on myself ! Is that really any different? Nope, it's not.
How about when a couple gets divorced. They often times argue over money and struggle to agree on the terms of alimony and child support. The ex-wife, who was a stay at home mom, wants to get her "fair" share of the money, and the ex-husband does not want to be screwed over. Both individuals are accusing the other of being greedy, selfish, and self-centered. If you asked each of those individuals if they were guilty of that behavior themselves, they would quickly justify themselves and explain how it is different than their spouse. Nope, it's not.
What about when we are in a relationship with somebody and we worry they do not care as much about us as we do about them. We feel like they may be holding back and are not as vulnerable and open as we would like them to be. We have doubts about the way they feel about us and this leads us to feel a little insecure. As a result, we start pulling back, putting up barriers, and protecting ourselves. Only problem is, we think the other person is doing it. We do not see how we are participating in the dissolution of the relationship. We think the other person is emotionally unavailable but it is really us. Is the behavior of the one person different from the other? Nope it's not.
This is a good one! When we get upset with somebody and accuse them of having negative energy and a bad attitude. We get annoyed and frustrated that they are not behaving the way we want them to. We don't understand why they have to act this way to ruin whatever the situation may be. We act as if their bad energy is not acceptable but ours is. Nope, it's not.
Mirroring is a gift that often times goes to waste. In a perfect world, humans would be curious to discover their shortcomings They would eagerly get to work on self-improvement and evolving to the next level of themselves. In reality though, the opposite is actually true. Why is that? Why as humans would we prefer not to know so much about ourselves. Why would we prefer to live life in a more superficial and unaware state? The reason is because we all have brains and they are trying to keep us safe and comfortable. Ignorant bliss is so much easier than the courage it takes to look within and come to terms with our imperfections. The process of becoming self-aware can be quite uncomfortable and even feel threatening at first.
After working on this for years as both a coach and a scholar, I can usually identify when I am experiencing mirroring pretty quickly. I also know that as long as I have a brain, it will always happen and that is ok. I just need to be aware of it. Then when it does happen, I can take stock of my own behavior and examine how I am contributing to the situation. This self-awareness then provides me for the work I need to do on myself to evolve into the woman I want to be. I also remind myself that life is not a quest for perfection and I am lovable flaws and all. Join me in the weekly Brain BS Podcast to discuss this further.