“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Do you cringe a little when you hear affirmations? There’s nothing wrong with them, they just seem to be missing substance. You hear a cliche instead of something meaningful.
“You are much more than your opinions of yourself.” I know I’m definitely the kind of person who would roll my eyes at that statement, although I know it’s true. It takes a little untangling and concentration to really embrace it: “Yes, I am more than my opinions of myself.”
Have you ever wondered if maybe brushing these statements off is the reason why you can’t accept affirmations or use them to empower yourself?
My self esteem is a work in progress. I’m well-versed at keeping it really low. Eye-rolling at something that might affirm my fragile sense of self worth is just one more way I manage to keep myself down. It’s hard to change.
I find that I have an easier time affirming the people I care about. It’s so obvious that they’re deserving of love or respect, happiness and joy. I’m absolutely sure of it. What if I could turn that spotlight on myself? What if I could feel the same reverence for myself that I feel for others? It might make me a superhero.
- Turn off the judgment. If you’re like me, you are your own harshest critic. It’s one of the reasons why a positive affirmation makes you tell yourself, “That’s stupid.” Turn off the judgment by accepting the fact that you’re not a judgment-machine. You’re a person. You have experiences. You’re not made to sit in judgment of everything and dismissing them one by one. That’s not living.
- Practice by saying affirmative things to the people around you. I know it’s going to feel strange, and you won’t believe some of the things that come out of your mouth. You’ll suddenly feel like some happy neighbor on Sesame Street. Trust me, it’s a good thing. Positivity is a habit and you want to pick it up. If you refrain from harsh judgment and take a generally optimistic view of what other people around you are doing or trying, it begins to seep into your self-talk. You’re not an idiot for misplacing something. You’re no longer running late because you’re a putz. Self-criticism doesn’t live here anymore.
- Find the affirmation that speaks to your innermost needs. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. Maybe some affirmations seem hollow to you because they really don’t apply. Find one that is powerful to you. For example, maybe you’re always looking to the future and failing to recognize all your accomplishments. Imagine what six or 10-year-old you would think of all you’ve done in your career. For a kid who got stuck in Aunt Celeste’s tree and learned the hard way not to microwave tin foil, the moves you’ve made as an adult are impressive. Get in touch with that feeling and tell yourself, “I’m very proud of everything I’ve done to get me here.”
- Live your truth. Sometimes it’s hard to embrace a positive outlook because you’re not living your truth. Are you leading the life you want to have or the life others want you to lead? The need for validation from others can throw your life out of balance. It’s not easy to leave it behind, but self-care is definitely more important. Learning to accommodate your own needs and make yourself a top priority is itself an affirmation.
None of these things are easy. In fact, they’re all easily put off “until tomorrow.” But it’s a long journey and that’s why I want to start now. I want to live my truth and feel good about it. If I live my truth, I feel grounded. I have something to sink my feet into when I forget the whole point. I find it easier to avoid negative self talk if I make it a habit to be more optimistic and gentle with others.
I haven’t found one ultimate affirmation to suit all my needs, but I have a few that are powerful for me:
- I have a right to my feelings.
- I can live my life without fear of judgment, without constantly justifying myself because this isn’t court — it’s life.
- I am much stronger than I realize [emotionally] and that makes me incredibly powerful.
- I am the authority on my own experience.
- I can make it through anything and I can take away something good from it — just like I have time and again throughout my life.
- I don’t have to subject myself to other people’s toxic criticism.