The Smiling Dog in the Mirror

by Kelly on August 18, 2008 · 17 comments

in Inspiration. Happiness. Self Improvement,Parenting. Relationships


I got this inspirational tale in an email recently and I wanted to share it with you because I believe it perfectly encapsulates a basic principle of life that I try to remember whenever I am struggling, or feeling let down or neglected by others.

What you give out you get back

Long ago in a small, far away village, there was a place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors…

A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the house, he thought to himself, “This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often.”

In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door. When he saw the 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, “That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again.”

All the faces in the world are mirrors. What kind of reflections do you see in the faces of the people you meet?

First let me make one thing clear. I am not saying we must be smiling, positive people all the time. The MIRROR principle isn’t about that. But it is a powerful tool to refer to when you find yourself struggling with problematic people and difficult relationships.

By looking at what we believe about people and how we treat everyone we encounter in life, we can sometimes see where a problem stems from.

Maybe you had overly critical parents as a child, so you tend to attract critical people into your life because they’re the kind of relationships you’re comfortable with on a subconscious level. To you, love equals criticism because hey, it’s for your own good. “How will you ever know what you’re doing wrong if I don’t tell you”.

In this scenario, you can start to enact change by simply turning that mirror back onto yourself.

Where are you critical and judgmental? Listen to the words you use and the thoughts that run at a rapid pace through your mind. Do you gossip, silently judge others who live differently to you, or give a lot of “constructive advice” for how people can do things better? Do you find yourself thinking that everyone else is an idiot because they don’t do it your way?

Or maybe the person you are really negative and critical with is yourself. Maybe you can do nothing right in your eyes and the only language going around in your head every day is harsh and perfectionist. Maybe the criticism that comes at you from other people is really a mirror for the criticism you direct at the one person you should be the kindest to. YOU.

What do you think? Are the people in our lives mirrors for our own emotions, beliefs and behaviour? Can we really change how others treat us by changing how we treat ourselves?

Photo by Lukje

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1 Robin 08.18.08 at 9:43 pm

Hi there Kelly

I LOVE the doggy story – I haven’t heard it before.

I really do agree with you about the mirrors – I think using them is an extraordinarily powerful tool. I think it can be tricky identifying what exactly people are reflecting back to us, but when we do, the information is gold.

Robin’s last blog post..Reincarnation… A Scenario

2 Mike Goad 08.18.08 at 10:48 pm

Wonderful photograph at the beginning of the post. A different view/perspective that most people would not choose.

Likewise, the perspective in the words is great. And true.

Attitude is a choice and the attitude that one chooses certainly has an impact on those that you come in contact with

Mike Goad’s last blog post..A Different Perspective

3 Jay 08.18.08 at 11:28 pm

Ah .. you’ve hit on something very close to my heart. I did a post recently about the hurtful things our parents say to us when we’re kids and how those experiences, long forgotten by our parents, resonate well into our adult lives. And yes, it took me a long, long time to come to the point where I didn’t just choose people who were also critical of me as my friends, and to examine the way I treated others to see if I was causing some of my own problems. Silly as it might seem to some, it was when I discovered Johnny Depp and learned how he began, and how he lives his life (despite the wealth and fame, not because of it) that I was able to throw off a few more shackles and accept that it was OK for me to take no notice of negative comments from my mother and please myself, using my own morals and ethics as a standard, not hers – hence the name of my blog. Since then, I’ve been able to be more outgoing and have discovered the truth of the house of 1000 mirrors for myself. I now have more friends than ever before, and since I’m now able to reach out more to them, they reach out more to me.

I’m still inclined to judge myself harshly, and be a little paranoid in my personal relationships, but since I’m able to be more honest in my dealings with people, this has less negative effect – I can now laugh at myself sometimes, and just as important, admit when I’m wrong because that is no longer quite so threatening.

Excellent post!

Jay’s last blog post..Danger!

4 Evelyn Lim | Attraction Mind Map 08.19.08 at 12:25 am

I love the story about the dog!! It clearly illustrates that we should look at ourselves in the mirror first, because we tend to attract reflections of ourselves. It’s a great story to remember so that we can stop ourselves from being too critical of others.

Thanks for sharing,

Evelyn Lim | Attraction Mind Map’s last blog post..10 Insights Into The Power Of Thoughts

5 daisy 08.19.08 at 12:37 am

I like this piece, its very true. Of course it doesn’t always work when you meet a REALLY nasty person but I think in general its a fair comment.

6 chris 08.19.08 at 5:15 am

My children are my mirrors. When I’m happy, they’re happy and so on and so forth. I also make point to smile whenever I’m at work. When I’m smiling, my students are also smiling.

People always give you advice to be positive because it’s one of the most difficult things to do in life. I’m a very positive person but they are times when I just feel like crap. But I do try my best to keep everything light and fun.

chris’s last blog post..Car Chronicles On Location: Nobody’s Perfect

7 Al at 7P 08.19.08 at 6:10 am

Great story, Kelly. I like your choice of words regarding how people who grew up with critical parents might attract critical people. To me, the key word is “attract.”

Not that I’m a Law of Attraction follow or anything, but we tend to gravitate towards like-minded people, and vice versa. I would say we might walk into a house with 10 thousand pictures, but one thousand of the pictures that resemble us the most are the ones that we notice the most (and the ones that notice us back).

Al at 7P’s last blog post..The Hero with a Thousand Jobs

8 Cath Lawson 08.19.08 at 6:39 am

Hi Kelly – this is something I have wondered a lot. It’s kind of like women who are abused when they’re younger – then they wind up marrying abusive men. I wonder what causes the attraction? I can’t imagine people willingly attracting folk into their lives who would harm them – but as you said, they’re probably grown up thinking that behaviour is normal. They’re just used to being treated that way. I also wonder if some bullying types are good at picking their victims too.

Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Business Success: Is It Really All That Simple?

9 Vered 08.19.08 at 7:16 am

It’s a beautiful story.

I do believe that we need to be kind to ourselves. When we love ourselves, others get that vibe from us and they respect us.

The best way to learn to love yourself is to grow up surrounded by love and respect. But even of a person grows up in an abusive home, they can still teach themselves self-love and insist that others treat them with kindness and respect.

Vered’s last blog post..Top 10 Fashion Mistakes To Avoid At All Costs

10 Marelisa 08.19.08 at 7:27 am

Kelly, I’m a big believer that the outside world is a reflection of what’s going on in your inner world. I once read that when something disagreeable happens to you, you should ask: what belief would a person have to be holding in order for this situation to have occurred.

Marelisa’s last blog post..Making Time to Create

11 Kelly 08.19.08 at 9:18 am

Yes, it’s definitely not always easy and sometimes confronting, but so far it’s worked for me

Yes, I loved this photograph the second I saw it. Talk about smiley, happy shot! And I agree attitude is everything in life.

I don’t think it’s strange at all that Johnny Depp inspired you to rethink the way you lived your life. Inspiration really can come from anywhere and I’m with you 1000% that Johnny really does have admirable qualities befitting the heroes we watch in films. He is unashamedly his own man and has a strong sense of artistic and moral integrity. He’s daring and believes in himself and is as far from a sell-out as an actor can get. And this is despite being famous and feted for most of his life. I’m just glad he helped you see that you deserved better relationships and a better life. Now, stop being so hard on yourself! We’re all fallible and you’ll be a lot happier if you strive to be your best friend, not your worst enemy.


12 Kelly 08.19.08 at 9:37 am

I thought you’d know this story. I loved it the second I read it – makes the point very well I think. I think criticism is the scourge of most of us. There is so much judgment and sniping, even in an underhanded way, that a lot of people just don’t notice it anymore. The only thing is that it’s very hard to attract love and support into our life if we surround ourselves with people who just don’t know how to give this. Too often those people are our family and as Jay said they have no idea how much their words and dismissive, critical actions affect us for years afterwards.

I’m glad you mentioned this. Of course there are people out there who have no idea how to be nice or just don’t want to be, but if you are someone who strives to be kind, fair, positive and non-judgmental, then you’ll fin you rarely pull these people into your life. And when you do inadvertently meet them they won’t really GET to you. You’d just think “What a tosser” and move on. You wouldn’t let them completely upset you or take advantage or make you feel less than because you know they’re the fuck-up, not you.

But if you have spent your life surrounded by people who demoralize you and leave you insecure then you’ll be much more likely to think “Why is he/she doing this to me?” You’ll take this person’s beahviour personally, or you might even befriend them because their behaviour seems normal and you don’t have the inner sense of what you deserve from others.

Last night as I was falling off to sleep it hit me that I should have used my son as the perfect example for this post. Like you said, he has proved to be the biggest mirror for me in terms of what is going on inside me. Often I have found that Bunny extroverts that which I feel but let fester inside. I won’t go into it more now ebcause I do want to do a post about this.


13 Kelly 08.19.08 at 9:47 am

I think the law of attraction is very much associated with The Secret these days and in a way that’s a bad thing because this movie really did focus on the whole “What can I get? I want to be rich” line of thinking. When really the Law of attraction is just that like attracts like, so if you want to change your outside experience you must first change your internal one. I believe in this completely.

Now who wants to buy me a car or a diamond necklace because I bloody well deserve one!

Hmm, I really should do a post about this too since I do have experience with an abusive relationship. In a nutshell, there are many different types of abusive relationships and the broad reason anyone puts up with this is because they don’t love themselves enough to walk away. It seems SAFER and EASIER to stay. They think they are unlovable at heart and this is the best they’re going to get. These feelings could be so well buried that they don’t realize they feel this way, but really that’s it.

I completely agree with you. We can always start over. We can always decide today we are going to learn how to love ourselves and forgive others and draw reasonable boundaries to get what we deserve. This is not an easy thing, but it is achievable if you want to change your life and are willing to put the work in.

Exactly! Another question I sometimes ask myself is “What am I getting out of this?” Do I get to feel hard done by, attacked, unloved? Why would I need to feel unloved? For years my identity was very much wrapped up in being a “survivor” and so I would attract situations and relationships to survive, thereby proving to myself that I was still tough and nothing could sink me. There was actually an upside and a downside to the belief.

Thanks for the comments everyone.


14 Urban Panther 08.19.08 at 9:54 am

Oh, good one! I gave myself a good talking to this weekend on this very topic of turning things around. The Lion is still good friends with his ex-wife. This is very hard to me to comprehend because I am not friends with my ex. I get along with the children’s dad, but I don’t seek him out in anyway except to dicuss the children (rare now since they are grown). For second partner, we simply walked away without a backwards glance. Anyway, the Ex phones to borrow things and ask for help on things. From my perspective I was finding this extremely intrusive and I would become furious. This weekend she did it again, but this time I sat down and did some journal writing. I realized that if the Lion’s father, or the next door neighbour, asked to borrow something I wouldn’t think anything of it. I have no reason to be concerned about her and the Lion. He loves me to bits, and has never given me any reason to think otherwise. So, I have turned it around in my head. I will no longer refer to the Lion’s ex-wife as the Ex. I will refer to her as the Lion’s Friend. Oh, I am sure I will need to repeat this over and over in mind head like a mantra the next several times so asks for something, but I am honestly going to make the effort to see things differently.

Urban Panther’s last blog post..The evolution of dance

15 Roz Mitchell 08.19.08 at 11:20 am

Hi Kelly first we have to be kind to ourselves. Some days are good and we feel on top of the world, then others are not so good and those days I think we need to treat ourselves with kitten gloves. Keep the whole thing in perspective and know it will not last.That attitude is a positive attitude and works for me. People can be nasty and hurtful and that can come from total strangers ,family or friends. I use to take on board their feelings and end up having a crappy day, but no more I cant be responsible for the way they are feeling. They make it so. Even if I have been the instigater, its still up to that person to how they will react.
So to me its all a waste of our precious energy so use our energy for a more constructive purpose.
Kelly your blog is productive and helping and assisting so many people, so give yourself a pat on the back and say well done .

16 SpaceAgeSage 08.20.08 at 5:27 am

What a fun and insightful story of the dogs!

I love what Dr. Christiane Northrup said on a PBS program, “If you have trouble receiving, you will be surrounded by people who have trouble giving” (paraphrased). My husband recently improved his self perception and his sense of being “comfortable in his own skin,” and he found people treating him with more respect. Those who used to treat him poorly started avoiding him because he no longer “fed” their need to put people down. I know we “teach” other people — consciously or unconsciously — how to treat us. That’s why I like the book, “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend.

SpaceAgeSage’s last blog post..Self-Knowledge

17 Kelly 08.20.08 at 7:57 am

@Urban Panther
I think Urbane Lion sounds like a mature and generous man. There is no need for divorce to mean holding onto bad feelings, not once the dust has settled anyway. I’ve been lucky in my life in that my parents are still friends even though they divorced 25 years ago. It makes life much easier on the kids if it’s possible, especially at weddings etc. Last year both my parents, their respective spouses and our combined families spent Christmas together and it was lovely. I know it has involved some getting used to from the spouses, but everyone gets on now and my mum and stepmother get along really well. I think I forget that most people find this strange because it’s been that way most of my life.

Good on you for choosing to look at the Ex in a new way, and lucky you for having such a fabulous guy!

You’re so right about taking on board other people’s stuff and letting it ruin your day. I’m still working on this when it comes to my loved ones, but it’s a work in progress.

Wise words those and I’ve definitely seen this effect work a bit in my life. I’ve been trained to be a giver from such a young age and have spent most of my life pushing my needs to one side where they clashed with others’. It just brings you a life where you are surrounded by people who take and take and take and you just get more resentful with every passing year. Stepping back and looking at yourself and how you contribute to your lifer can be a very freeing activity. Thanks for telling me about that book – I’m going to look it up. Motherhood has really shown me I have issues with boundaries so I need all the help I can get!


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