The Mirror Rule

Has it ever happened to you that some behaviors in others bother you so much and you don’t quite understand why? Have you realized that it is easier to appreciate positive aspects in others than in yourself? It was hard for me to agree with the phrase “change begins with you”, I thought that change was a collective effort and that people should also change so we can all understand each other. This caused me a lot of frustration, especially with my family, I wanted to improve my relationship with them but insisted that they had to change as well. 

As part of my therapy and personal growth, my therapist told me about a law that could help me change the idea that everything around me had to change, and understand that I was the one who had to make the changes and work on myself.

The Mirror Rule says that the people and situations we perceive are a reflection of ourselves, this rule can show us how we can improve or change a situation that is already unsustainable.

The Mirror Rule has 4 premises:

  1. Everything that bothers, irritates me, or that I want to change in the others, is within me.
  2. Everything that others criticize or judge in me, if it bothers me, or hurts me, is repressed within myself and it’s necessary to work on that.
  3. Everything I like about others, what I love about them, is also within me.
  4. If everything that other person wants to change in me, criticizes or judges doesn’t affect me, belongs to that person.

This law is based on different thinkers such as Plato, but it was Dr. Carl Gustav Jung who took it to a psychological ground, and as a tool for the understanding of who we are and how we behave. The premise is that we see the world through what we are, that is, we see the outside as a result of the influences we are exposed to in our daily lives and with which we build our concepts and values.

Our “shadow self”


In his study of the “Shadow”, Jung explains that we reflect ourselves in others and that both the positive and the negative is a vision of ourselves, so if we become aware of this, everyone around us could be great teachers to help us grow and better understand ourselves. What Carl Jung proposes is that we project ourselves unconsciously, so we see the world according to our programming, this way, we understand and judge our surroundings accordingly.

The “shadow” is the person we don’t want to be or everything that our conscious catalogs as inappropriate, but we are. The “shadow” is an excellent tool for self-observation and self-understanding because eventually, this unwanted self appears unconsciously through our perceptions. 

Carl Jung thought that if the shadow was made conscious, it could be used as a support in personal growth, instead of being a situation that generates discomfort or being used as a tool to judge the world around us. Although the shadow is part of us and doesn’t disappear, we can understand it, love it, improve it and use it to our advantage. 

If our interpretation of the exterior is nothing more than a reflection of our interior, we could say that knowing and understanding ourselves is basic to healthily relate with others. Having this powerful tool, what other aspects of our life could we analyze and transform?

The Mirror Law and failure

The Mirror Law can tell us a lot about our perception of failure.

If could take our own definition of failure and look at it through the mirror, we could begin to understand why we live in a society with so little tolerance, a lot of frustration, and anger. If failure as a society is so stigmatized, disapproved, and a topic that allows so little flexibility, what does that tell us about ourselves? How strict are we being with ourselves? How much do we allow ourselves to fail?

It’s logical that when starting a project, a relationship, a job, etc. we have ideas of how we want that moment of our lives to be, it undoubtedly helps us to visualize and materialize it. But finding a balance between what I imagine and what it turns out to be, prevents us from getting lost in value judgments or comparisons that can lead us to frustration and increase the chances to have a friendly encounter with a possible failure.

It is key to reflect on the importance of self-knowledge and how important it is to start the changes we want to see. I know there are many things that are bigger than ourselves and limit us, not everything depends on self-knowledge, but it can be a key in how we can be the society we want to live in.  

In the Mirror Rule, there is a point that invites us to see our positive aspects in other people. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to see the positive in ourselves and it’s easier to recognize it in others. With this in mind, I invite you to practice until it becomes a habit, to look for all the positives in the person you are going to interact with, find a moment to let them know, and then analyze how this aspect is reflected in me and acknowledge it. Acknowledge our dark side, embrace it and understand that it’s a tool to understand the world as we see it.

Edited by Ricardo Guerrero
Written by: Ileana Castro

Written by: Ileana Castro

People & Admin

Following the best practices of failure by doing business with her best friend. At this moment, she is leading the People area in Fuckup Inc. helping people breaking free from their paradigms. Loves long and deep conversations, long walks, traveling, and swimming.