Mel Robbins on Inner Beauty: Your Relationship With Yourself Is The Foundation For Everything
Posted On Oct 29, 2021
By Chad Schubert
Mel Robbins lights up when I call her to discuss inner beauty. “Oh, yesss!” she says with a thrill in her voice. The mother-of-three is a no-nonsense personal development powerhouse and an international bestselling author who has the most successful self-published audiobook of all time, The 5 Second Rule. Her TEDx Talk on “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over” is also one of the most popular of all time, with over 27 million views. All of her work is essentially about how to screw yourself over less and love yourself more. According to Mel, the way we treat ourselves is the key to self love, which is the key to inner beauty. But how do we start to actually treat ourselves better?
“It begins in the bathroom mirror,” Mel says. “We talk a lot about morning routines and beauty routines in our culture, but nobody has kicked a whole wide open on the ugly habit we all have as part of our morning routine. Every single morning when you stand in front of the bathroom mirror, you either ignore the human being standing there, which is a form of self rejection, or you pick them apart. You see all the things you need to fix, all the things you don’t like. You judge yourself, you tear yourself apart. This is actually a habit that is part of everybody’s morning routine and nobody’s talking about it.” So we talked about it—a lot. We also talked about her simple yet profound change in bathroom mirror activity that helps to alter the way we speak to ourselves, which changes the way we see ourselves, the way we feel about ourselves, and ultimately how others see us as well. It’s what Mel’s new book, The High 5 Habit: Take Control of Your Life With One Simple Habit, is all about. It’s self love in action—rooting for yourself, cheering yourself forward, believing in yourself with the same conviction of a diehard sports fan on Super Bowl Sunday. And what do you do to people you want to win? You high five them.
So why not high five yourself? Sounds corny, I know (she thought so at first, too), but there’s science to why this actually works, which Mel explains in our chat. And at 53 years old, the wildly popular motivational speaker—who also hosts the Start Here with Mel Robbins Podcast on Audible—looks more vibrant and full of life than ever, and she shares with us the secret to that glow, which has had everyone on her book publicity tour from Lewis Howes to Jay Shetty saying “you look a decade younger!”
Q: How did you start high fiving yourself in the mirror? You say it changed your life…
Robbins: Oh, completely! I think everyone has had the experience of waking up and feeling completely overwhelmed by life. Feeling defeated and low energy and just a sense of, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to face the day.’ Well, I woke up one morning in April of 2020 and that is how I felt on the inside. I was overwhelmed, exhausted. I felt defeated, incapable of getting through everything on my list or the issues I was facing. I get to the bathroom and I’m standing there in my underwear, brushing my teeth and I caught a glimpse of myself. I thought, my god, you look like hell. And the woman I saw in the mirror looked exhausted and beaten down. I honestly felt sad for her. I don’t know what came over me, because it sounds cheesy, but for whatever reason I just raised my hand to the woman in the mirror and gave her a high five. Because she looked like she needed one. And here’s the interesting thing: I immediately felt a flip switch. I felt my energy shift. I laughed out loud cause it’s so corny to high five yourself, but I felt this switch, like, ‘okay, come on, Mel. Get out there and get it.’ Now I know what that was, that’s the dopamine in my nervous system flipping switch.
Q: What happens after you finally start to notice yourself and give the person staring back at you positive reinforcement?
Robbins: It was the second day where things broke wide open. I woke up again feeling defeated, overwhelmed, whatever. I got out of bed, started walking to the bathroom, and it was at that moment that I realized I was feeling something I never felt before—I was looking forward to seeing myself in the mirror. I’ve looked forward to seeing an outfit, a haircut, the way my makeup looks. I have never looked forward to seeing the human being Mel Robbins. Then I have this other realization: every single morning there are two human beings in the bathroom. There’s you, and there’s the human being in the mirror. And that person in the mirror has been waiting for you to wake up and realize that they’re there. They’ve been waiting for you to realize that they’re trying so hard and that they need you. They need your support. They need you to cheer them on. They need you to acknowledge what they’re going through. They need you to stop picking them apart and focusing on what’s not working. You start to realize that you’re not just staring at your reflection, you’re staring at your spirit, your soul.
Q: Wow. So this simple exercise is self love in action? It’s the opposite of what most people have been doing, which is tearing themselves apart and rooting against themselves…
Robbins: Exactly. 91% of women do not like how they look. 50% of men and women can’t even look at themselves in the mirror. They’re uncomfortable doing it. There’s this awful habit that you have that’s the opposite of inner beauty: it’s self criticism, self rejection, self hatred, and it’s part of your morning ritual. There’s a whole opportunity when it comes to what the high five means, because what this then becomes is a small habit every morning where you create a partnership with yourself where you connect with the greatest energy source of your life, which is the power of you, the source of self energy. You start to feel like you can have your own back.
Q: I love how you say in the book, “After a few weeks of high fiving myself in the mirror, I began to realize the LEAST interesting thing about me is how I look. The best part and most loveable part is what’s on the inside.” So with that, what does inner beauty mean to you?
Robbins: For me, inner beauty means loving, supporting and encouraging yourself for exactly where you are and exactly where you are not. For exactly who you are and exactly who you are not. I think there’s so much emphasis on outer beauty in our society because we have all anchored our self worth and validation on things outside of us. We are chasing self worth. But inner beauty is when you locate your self worth and validation as a human being inside of yourself.
It’s really about authenticity. Authenticity means you are able to be your full self. You’re not guarded, you’re not editing your emotions or what you need to say. You’re just being you in this moment. Your focus is on being yourself and saying what’s true for you, instead of trying to be liked or fit in. I think inner beauty has less to do with what you’re doing or where you’re at in life, or whether you’re in a good mood or a bad mood. It has everything to do with whether or not you are ok and able to talk about what you’re feeling and where you are in your life. Authenticity and truth shines through people in a really beautiful way.
Q: The more you high five yourself and love yourself, have you noticed a positive ripple effect on your day?
Robbins: It’s not a ripple effect, it’s a tidal wave. There’s so much research here [in the book] that explains how your mood in the morning impacts your focus and productivity for a minimum of four hours. So that positive encouragement when you high five yourself in the mirror, based on research, is enough to send your life in a totally different trajectory. The reason it’s a tidal wave of a difference is because if you leave your bathroom feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you will have a day where the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Every email will feel like a burden, every request or text will feel heavier and heavier. If you start your day feeling like ‘I got this,’ then you’re going to have a totally different day. And mid-way through your day as you’re at work, you can step into the bathroom and high five yourself again for another boost and set yourself back into the afternoon. Or if your boss said something rude to you, then you’ve got a way to lift yourself up when you start to feel your attitude going down.
Q: How does this simple practice change things on a real deeper level in our lives?
Robbins: When you change how you treat yourself and see yourself—which is what the high five is about, we’re interrupting the habit of self rejection and criticism, and reprogramming your mind with belief, optimism, support and celebration. When you have a totally different mindset about what you believe is possible and who you believe yourself to be, it doesn’t change the obstacles you face, it changes you. And that changes your ability, your resilience and your motivation to face those things.
Q: Do you find that you now require less external validation from others?
Robbins: I don’t need it. Your relationship with yourself is the foundation for everything. You’re literally so insecure with yourself—and how can you not be? You stand in front of the mirror and say, ‘I hate my stomach and I look like shit and I failed and nobody’s ever gonna love me.’ You think all this bullshit and then you think you’re gonna go out in the world and be confident? No. You’ve already trashed yourself. So you leave your bathroom feeling insecure about who you are, that’s why you’re insecure around everybody else.
People pleasing isn’t about other people. It’s about your insecurity with yourself. You’re busy trying to please everybody because you are insecure, so you’re seeking validation from other people. I don’t need external validation to feel ok about myself. I don’t. In fact, I’ve been high fiving myself for a year now and I don’t even need to do it anymore because my brain has been completely re-wired. It wouldn’t even occur to me when I see Mel Robbins in the mirror to criticize her. Because I know she’s trying and I feel a level of compassion and empathy for her.
Q: What about professionally?
Robbins: Do I like external validation? Of course! Do I want this to be the #1 book on every chart? Of course! But do I need that in order to feel good about myself? Absolutely not.
Q: What do you say to people who have been beating themselves down all their lives? The positive high five reinforcement may feel really foreign and hard for them…
Robbins: It’s supposed to feel that way. This is new. I’m teaching you to do the opposite of what you’ve done for decades. In my case, 40 years. It should feel weird. That means it’s working, because we’re plowing new neuro-pathways into your brain. 99% of people have a negative reaction and resist [the high five habit] when they hear about it because, let’s face it, it sounds stupid on its face. The reason you think it’s stupid is really sad. You are so used to judging yourself. You look in the mirror and say, ‘oh, I was abused or traumatized or dealt with poverty or discrimatinon and that means I’m damaged.’ Or ‘it means I’m worthless or nothing’s ever going to work out for me.’ So you see a person in the mirror who doesn’t deserve a high five because of that. Or you have major regrets—you cheated, lied, failed, squandered opportunities, all of which you did just trying to survive. But you stand in the mirror every morning and see a person you feel ashamed of. So why would you high five somebody that you feel ashamed of?
Q: Why does a high five do anything for us at all? It’s just a hand to a mirror… What is happening?
Robbins: The mental programming of the high five is ‘I see you, I believe in you, I support you.’ You have never once in your entire life high fived someone and thought ‘I hate you.’ It’s neurologically impossible to raise your hand and think ‘I’m a failure.’ You can’t do it. Your mind goes blank. It won’t allow you to think something negative because for decades you have been trained and programmed to feel positive things when you do this gesture.
Q: What sort of daily self care practices do you implement to nurture yourself?
Robbins: I really care about my health and mental health. I get a really good night’s sleep, 7-8 hours. I have really curved the drinking, which has helped tremendously with sleep and focus. I plug my phone in away from my bed. I make my bed every morning as a way to practice simple discipline. I journal every morning and write down five dreams as a way to train my mind to focus on the good and the positive. I high five myself in the mirror every single morning and I high five my heart, typically right as I get out of bed. I put my hands on my heart, take a deep breath, and say ‘I am ok, I am safe, I am loved.’ This is really magical, it leverages science to help you turn off your stressed out, anxiety-ridden, fight or flight nervous system. It switches on your calm, resting, parasympathetic nervous system, which is your cool, at rest nervous system.
Q: I must say, you really look amazing and vibrant. Do you have any secret beauty tricks that you can share with us?
Robbins: Well, thank you! I look as good as I do because I do not tear myself down. Literally every podcast person that I’ve known, everybody’s looked at me and said something like, ‘oh my god, you look a decade younger.’ And I do. Because I have evicted the relentless, bitchy, nasty, grinding voice that has been beating me up for four decades in my head. Does it come back? Sure. But I am so good now at grabbing it and flipping it back into a high five attitude, and I think the vibrancy that you’re seeing and the life force that is just pouring out of me is actually because I am, for the first time in my life, content with who I am. I am happy with who I am. And I know that if something comes up in my life that is scary or terrifying or heartbreaking or challenging, that I have within me the ability to face it and the ability to survive it. That I’ve got my own best ally staring back at me every morning in the mirror. I no longer feel like I’m alone. It’s the most energizing and vitality driving thing in the world. Inner beauty is about treating yourself with beautiful actions and I can’t think of anything more beautiful than beginning every morning by celebrating and supporting yourself.
Grab your copy of The High Five Habit here!
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Photo credit: Jenny Moloney