Negative self-images are perhaps the most challenging barriers for anyone to overcome. Know that you are your own worst critic. It is good up to a point, but when it tears at the very fibers of your being, it is time to reevaluate where such images originate. Someone once said the Earth, as the Mother of humanity, perfectly reflects Her children’s spiritual state. It stands to reason you cannot hope to heal the world when you have not learned to heal yourself on all levels of being: body, mind, and soul.
Sometimes you know, at least in part, the cause for a poor self-image, such as bad childhood memories, taunting from peers, negative statements from family or friends, past failures, or cultural ideals and societal norms. If you know the people or circumstances at the roots of self-doubt, you have conquered half the battle. Now, all that remains is the work of digging into your subconscious and conscious mind so you can remove such doubts entirely.
If you are dubious about why you have these nagging uncertainties; the process is a little more complicated. In the medical profession, it is nearly impossible to treat symptoms effectively without knowing the source. So, your first step towards wholeness is examining your life to find the origins of apprehension. It may be a rather painful process because it brings to light everything from disturbing memories to how you perceive yourself daily.
The following exercises are not a quick fix for negative self-images or poor self-esteem. Rebuilding the self is sometimes a lifelong process. The more you are willing to release negative feelings and leave the past where it belongs, the more effective the practices become. Like anything else in life, the intense desire to help yourself is your most powerful tool. Learn to be your own best friend.
Magical Introspection: Witch, ‘Know Thyself’
The following exercise involves personal reflection. You should perform it on a day when you do not have to rush, feel somewhat rested, and you can center yourself and your emotions for introspective work. Begin by finding a quiet place where you feel comfortable and can think without interruption, such as your home, a park, a church, or even a museum, and be sure to bring your notebook with you. Once there, sit down and take a few deep, cleansing breaths, allowing yourself to relax.
On one sheet of paper, make a list of everything you can think of that you dislike about yourself. Then, on another piece of paper, list all your doubts. Using a third sheet, list all of what you feel are your positive points. Include your feelings regarding all portions of your life, especially the spiritual. When you finish, put the paper aside and try to forget about it for a few minutes, again breathing deeply. Take a moment to enjoy your surroundings. For an instant now, pretend your lists are really about someone you care for and love. With a new outlook, many of the things you thought were terrible suddenly don’t seem so bad compared to all the good.
Now, stand up, look at your reflection in a mirror and say with confidence, all the while knowing you are taking a most important step forward:
Living a Magical Life One Small Change at a Time
Now, look at the list again. Mark on it the things you have the power to change, such as bad habits. Eliminating negative tendencies will often help to eradicate certain self-doubts. For example, if you feel you don’t exercise enough, change your life pattern to make time to include some exercise each day. You may quickly discover how you view your physical self is more optimistic because you are doing something constructive and achieving a goal. So, put a target date next to the things you want to work on within and about yourself.
Try not to be zealous about how quickly you can achieve change, though. Setting the bar too high leads to discouragement. Instead, try to set reasonable goals that take into consideration your other responsibilities and circumstances.
The listing exercise you are performing can be useful for other things besides self-image assessment and improvement. Another application for the list might be for decision-making, where you have “yes” and “no” or “should” and “should not” lists for comparison. Or you can just have one piece of paper which lists your objectives. The last list is something you can use in ritual as a magical focus for increasing energy to support you in achieving your goals.
The foundation of the self-assessment addresses a common difficulty; sometimes you might experience trouble sorting out the many thoughts going through your mind. By documenting, organizing, examining, and reconciling your thoughts and concerns, you are swimming through the waters of confusion instead of just treading water and getting nowhere. Merely putting your thoughts on paper allows you to explore feelings you may never have realized you had—it helps to clear your mind while clarifying to you the parts of yourself you want to improve or finally embrace.
Magical Introspection: Discovering Your Inner God or Goddess
For the following exercise, you will need a mirror with a full-length one being best. Take the mirror to a private part of your home where it is quiet. I suggest trying this during a waxing moon with some soft music playing in the background, maybe a few red candles burning, and other items around you that make you feel safe and comfortable. Ensure you will have at least one to two hours of privacy by turning off your phone and locking the doors.
You will need to have a picture of your favorite God or Goddess image with you for the task at hand. The image can be mythic or fictional, from posters, cards, calendars, or other art, but whatever medium you choose, make sure it is pleasing to the eye and Spirit. You should not only enjoy looking at it but have some positive emotional response while you view the piece.
Next, stand fully clothed in front of the mirror. Look at yourself with your most critical eye. See wrinkles and blemishes if you have them, and the real you—flaws and all. Once you have reviewed all the physically negative aspects, do just the reverse. Now notice all the positive things, like how your eyes reflect the light in the room and the joy within your heart; the strength of the oak tree you have in your back to keep you standing tall, the incredible tools your hands are as you remove your clothing slowly.
As you take off each garment, consider for a moment what it represents. High heels may represent how you want people to see you or an excessive concern with physical appearance instead of comfort. Dark pants might be symbolic of the “all business side of you” that can also keep you from trusting your more intuitive nature. The dark-colored pants may also embody the bonds of materialism that hold you in place, preventing your inner child from experiencing full joy. When removing each piece of clothing, remove the symbols from your life that are not positive and self-affirming. As the attire drops to the floor, leave it there along with any negative attitudes or associations.
Continue removing attire until you have stripped away all the outward, non-productive images of self, and what remains is the naked self—the quintessence of who you are when stripped down to your true essence. The exercise may be difficult for you, especially if you don’t enjoy looking at your body. The discomfort may be because of self-consciousness, or worse, the erroneous belief you are not beautiful or handsome enough. Sometimes, a puritanical mindset that says nakedness is evil or shameful may be what holds you back. Examine your discomfort if you have any and consider its source. But whatever holds you back, now is the time to overcome a closed mindset or negative self-talk.
Magical Life Lesson: Recognizing the Sacred Self
Begin by realizing your body is holy: It carries your soul through the lessons of life. View yourself for one moment from a more scientific angle to see what a marvelous machine the Divine has gifted to you. Look at how your body bends and moves. See the flow and curve of your muscles. Examine the strength of the skeleton. Consider the blessings your body offers, even if some of the latter fall short of perfection. Discard everything the media portrays as the perfect physical appearance and focus instead on what you see before you — the flesh and blood that sustains your existence while also serving as the vessel for your Spirit!
Now, for one moment, change your perspective to the picture of the God or Goddess. Concentrate on the image until you can see it in your mind’s eye, even with your eyes closed. Sit down on the floor in front of the mirror and look into your own eyes. Breathe slowly and evenly. In the center of your eye, visualize a small flame burning. Focus your attention on the flame. It is the center of your being, alive and full of energy.
In the fire, now see the God or Goddess image you concentrated on before. As you fill the flames with the image, consider all the positive associations which go with the picture. Think about the strength, natural beauty, peace, and wisdom that correspond with the image you have chosen to represent the Godhead. Let the Divine associations and the mental image of the Divinity grow until it is no longer just part of the fire or just in the center of your eye, but filling out every portion of your body, like a burst of Universal light filling every part of you.
When you feel as if the likeness fills you, open your eyes. Look into the face of the God or Goddess within! The Divine’s energy always has and forever shall be a part of you, waiting for expression. Look on to the body of the God and Goddess and know the Divine doesn’t create junk! Look on your whole being and know it is magical! You are beautiful as you are now. You are what you were born to be. Accept new self-love and find freedom.
Sacred Self Visualization—Your Observations
Upon completing the magical visualization, relax, and bring your breathing and perceptions back to normal. Dress in something comfortable and write down your observations and feelings, especially how things differ from the beginning of the exercise. You can repeat the practice any time you feel those old negative energies creeping in to disrupt your self-assurance, or any time you want to reconnect with the God or Goddess within. Note: The above exercise is also an excellent practice for anyone who feels lacking in sensuality, to help in embracing body acceptance.
You can also use the above visualization, with some minor alterations, for rituals where you wish to “Draw Down the Moon.” In such a case, instead of discarding negative images with the clothing you take off, visualize the removal of worldly things. Doing so helps clear your mind and Spirit to prepare for any magical workings ahead. Remember, improving your self-image takes time and there’s no quick fixes. Feel free to repeat the above exercises as necessary, until you eliminate issues related to poor self-image or the negative views of yourself. The ultimate goal of performing both exercises is to achieve a state of self-love and the full acceptance of who you are as a perfect and Divine, magical being.
Adapted from “The Urban Pagan,” by Patricia Telesco. All Rights Reserved.