We rarely see ourselves. Instead what we see are layers upon layers of criticisms and judgments. We see, Ugghh, I am enormous. I can’t believe I actually look like that in my dress! I feel gross. I am gross. I really need a tan. I hate my skin. I look like a sausage in these tights. Why can’t I do anything right? 

We rarely see ourselves for who we are. We rarely see our traits, our abilities, even our appearance. We think we do. We think we see ourselves all the time. Because we look in the mirror. Because we’re being realistic.

But in actuality, we’re evaluating ourselves. We’re making assumptions. We’re letting negativity shape our perspective. Below are a few ways we can really see ourselves. Consider giving them a try. Remember you’re simply playing and experimenting.

Look in the mirror, and describe what you see without any criticism or commentary. My eyes are hazel. My hair is brown. There are numerous freckles on my nose. I have a scar in the middle of my forehead. Maybe you can even be kind or grateful. These hands have held my spouse’s hands for years. These fingers have typed thousands of words that have helped me express myself. These legs have taken me on many hikes and adventures that have nourished my soul. 

Try a body scan meditation. Start with a 5-minute practice, and then move into longer practices.

Take photos of yourself. Maybe put on your favorite lipstick or your favorite outfit or both. Maybe pick your favorite spot in your house. Maybe play with different positions and facial expressions. Maybe take photos of only your eyes or smile or feet. Maybe take photos of yourself doing something you love—painting, dancing, writing, walking, sewing, laughing. Maybe take photos of yourself at a place you love—the beach, bookstore, park. Maybe have fun with different filters. Maybe take black-and-white photos. Maybe create a unique collage from several photos. Do what feels comfortable. (By the way, for more on exploring self-portraiture, check out Vivienne’s classes.)

When you wake up in the morning, before hopping out of bed, before picking up your cell phone, pause. Close your eyes, again, put your hands on your heart, and ask yourself: What do I really need today? You can ask this question when you’re brushing your teeth, on your morning commute, sitting at your desk, about to eat lunch, about to eat dinner.

Describe yourself as a character in a novel. Jot down your description. You can include your appearance, your personality, your traits, your likes, your dislikes, your actions, your habits. Again, use neutral statements as much as you can. Talk about your feelings, of course. But avoid making critical comments. You can even turn this into a game. Anytime you’re taking a specific action, jot it down. Anytime you find yourself loving something, jot it down, too. Create all sorts of descriptions.

Ask others the question, “When you look at me, what do you see? ” Write down their answers so you can remind yourself. Or ask the person to write down their response.

It’s amazing how clearly we see ourselves when we use descriptions, not judgments. When we get curious. When we open our eyes, instead of letting our inner critic cloud our vision.

Photo by Milada Vigerova.