Who Do You See?

What Do You See?
  ©2021 Louise Gallagher 

In every image I see

 something of me reflected.

In every image
 there is a reflection I must see.

Sometimes, I want to avoid
 looking at the reflection I see.

Sometimes, I want to see
 only what I want to see reflected.

Always, I must open my heart to see
 what is being reflected back to me.

It is hard sometimes, to look at ourselves in the mirror with our eyes wide-open and say, loud and clear so our heart can hear, “I Love You.”

Try it.

Right now.

Go stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eyes, deep into your eyes, take a deep breath and clearly state (keep your eyes open and looking into your heart) “I Love You.”

And, if it’s hard, if you hesitate or want to shut your eyes, or cry or shake your head from side-to-side in disbelief, ask yourself, “What is so unloveable about me?”

And, if the answer comes easy, if you have a list of ready-to-speak reasons why not loving yourself makes perfect sense, start there. Start in that painful, awkward, uneasy place where unself-love resides. Start right there to love those broken, ugly, untouchable places where you tell yourself you do not deserve Love.

We all deserve Love.

We all deserve to love ourselves. Many of us have not been taught it’s important. Or many of us have been taught it’s selfish or conceited. But, if we don’t love ourselves, how will we teach our children to love themselves enough to do the loving things? To treat their life, all life, as precious? To treat themselves and others with dignity and respect?

And, if we cannot love ourselves enough to speak the words today, how will we speak to ourselves in the tough times? In the times when we need tender loving care to get through the rough spots on our road? Or when life hits us with one of its curveballs and we just want to curl up into a ball and turn the world off? How will we take care of our heart, and the hearts of everyone we love, if we are beating ourselves up with Unlove?

Years ago, when my mother was around 85 and living in an assisted living centre, my then-teenage daughters and I went to visit her one evening. As she shared some of her life-story with us one of my daughters asked her, “Do you love yourself Nana?”

Mum blinked her eyes. Fluttered her hands around her face as she always did when she was nervous or uncomfortable and replied with something like, “What a silly question.”

My daughter did not back down. “Do you?”

Mum breathed out. Kept laughing nervously.

At this point both my daughters knew what was necessary.

The pushed her wheelchair to the full-length mirror in her entryway. They said, “Try it. Look at yourself and say, “I Love You.”

My mother was taken aback. She giggled and replied. “Oh no. No. I can’t do that.”

The girls were adamant. “Of course you can.” And each of them demonstrated how ‘easy’ it was to do and say.

“You do it too, mum,” they called out to me.

So, following in my daughters footsteps, I demonstrated ‘the how’ to my 85-year-old mother.

Still she hesitated. With encouragement, she finally looked at herself in the mirror and said, “I Love You.”

And then, she fluttered her hands around her face and exclaimed, “Oooh La La!”

It was such a sweet, tender moment, and at the same time, poignant and sad.

To be 85 and never to have told yourself, “I Love you.”

My mother was not, is not, alone in her silence.

We are a world of human beings who have never learned to say those words to ourselves.

Have you? Ever told yourself how much you love yourself?

When you stand in front of the mirror, who do you see reflected back?

A woman or man of integrity, humility, honour, beauty, strength, courage, passion, dignity, truth, wisdom, compassion, caring….

Or do you just not look? At yourself? Deep into yourself?

Do you just brush your teeth and hair and put your make-up on (and maybe notice with dismay a new wrinkle or two) or shave and avoid looking deep into your eyes?

Whatever you do in front of that mirror, that’s what you do in the world. So, if you want to change the world, start by changing how you look at yourself in the mirror and what you say to yourself.

Start by practicing, “I Love You.”

You’ll be amazed by what happens.

And PS — if it’s too hard to say the words, get a crayon that writes on glass and start by writing it out and reading it to yourself every day until you’re ready to claim the truth.

Sometimes, self-love starts with baby-steps…


About the artwork:

I am fascinated with carving stamps. I created the botanical on the left by first imprinting it with vaseline on the page (the vaseline acts as a resist to the paint) and then using the same stamp to print it on the right with black ink.

The little botanical is also a stamp I carved.

The background is watercolour and acrylic inks – the ‘mesh’ is created by using drywall tape as a stencil and dabbing paint through it.

Mixed media 8 x 10″ on canvas paper

The words were put in place in Photoshop (not physically printed on the page)

A guide to LOVING self-care


guide to loving self-care 1 copy

Recently, in finding myself challenged by what felt like an excessive workload, staff-challenges and unexpected events triggering fear and anxiety, I knew I needed to take care of me — because if I didn’t, I would be even less able to step through each day with grace and calm.

Now, there are a lot of ways to give yourself loving self-care — and I emphasize the ‘loving’ because it’s easy in times of stress to fall into a pattern of convincing yourself self-care includes  doing things that aren’t that healthy — like skipping your workout or vegging out in front of mindless TV eating foods doused with saturated fats and sugar! There’s nothing wrong with watching TV but it’s important to be mindful of the ‘why and what’ of your behaviour; and raw carrots will always trump potato chips on the good for you scale!

Which is the first step to take on the journey to loving self-care:

Step 1:  Get conscious of your patterns.

I have a pattern when feeling an overload of stress to want to veg and graze. My critter mind wants me to believe it’s okay. I ‘deserve’ a break. Giving myself a break to indulge in unhealthy patterns of behaviour is the last thing I need in those situations. All unhealthy self-care does is make me feel more sluggish served with a good dollop of guilt on top. With consciousness comes awareness and the ability to make choices that change my choices for the good.

Step 2:  Reframe the proposition.

Too often we tell ourselves we have no choice, it’s just the way we are. Yet, the choice to not give yourself loving self-care and instead to choose self-indulgence is exactly that — a CHOICE.

Critter-mind is strong. It loves to override conscious thought with its sinister pleas to just give in, this once (like seriously. just this once), to its calling you to act out. When conscious of your critter-mind’s plots to undermine your well-being – Stop. Breathe and instead of focussing on self-indulgence and convincing yourself how what is bad for you is good, reframe it. Before indulging in negative self-care repeat 10x (write it out if it helps):

I choose to treat myself with LOVING self-care for the benefit of…..  (not feeling guilty, having more energy, filling my well, being proud of me…)

Focus on the benefits of taking loving care of yourself by taking a pause between the thought and the action.

Step 3:  Take your finger off the trigger.

Take a look at your triggers. Does TV automatically make you want to reach for the sugars and/or fats? Does it automatically cause you to go mindless?

Then unplug the TV. If it’s in a central area of your home, move it to a room with a door that you can close. And if it’s in your bedroom, get it out.

Taking your finger off the trigger means removing the objects with the trigger.

And yes, it’s hard work. But don’t you deserve the benefits?

Step 4:  Stop the chitter-chatter.

Critter mind is an endless stream of chitter-chatter. That’s its nature. Stopping it takes a conscious decision to not listen. I’m not saying it’s easy. I am saying, Yes, you can. Stop the chatter. You have that power.

Imagine you have a stop sign in your mind. A thought about why you don’t need to go to the gym or eat a banana instead of a cookie enters. Quickly. Put up your stop sign in your mind. or Imagine your hand goes up automatically in front of the thought and your inner voice says, Talk to the Hand.  Keep doing it every time the chitter-chatter ramps up. Believe me. Critter-mind will get the point of who’s boss — and in case you’re wondering — You are the boss of you!

Step 5:  Baby steps.

It can feel daunting to think about breaking a pattern of negative behaviour that your critter mind has convinced you is good for you. Baby steps are important. If you get one night in without giving into the desire to veg and graze, celebrate your progress. Be cautious, celebrating doesn’t mean giving into the urge the next night. It means giving yourself some congratulatory self-talk and building on the first baby-step with the next baby-step (or leap) towards shifting the pattern. If your habit is to veg and graze 5 nights of the week, start with limiting it to 4 the first week, then 3 the next, then 2 and if you dare, 1 or none!

 Baby steps shorten the distance between NOT taking care and TAKING caring of yourself. And every step towards loving self-care counts.

As you take steps towards loving care, let me know how you’re doing. I am on this path with you. I am shifting my patterns from the negative to the positive, from the dark side to the light.

And don’t forget, if you trip-up or fall off the path, loving self-care means you don’t beat yourself up. You simply, Begin again.

Always Begin Again.