And I’ll tell you why. In a minute.
First. Have you ever stood in front of the mirror and told yourself something about being amazing, wonderful, powerful, and strong? And after the quick dopamine rush that any good pep talk can offer, did you feel like a changed person? I mean really, deeply changed? Did that warm and tingly feeling of confidence and self-love last more than a hot second or two?
Most likely not. But you don’t have to feel bad, you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just that you told yourself a whole bunch of hullabaloo that you don’t actually believe.
Let’s put it another way: I can tell myself I’m a pickle. But I know I’m not. And even if I tell myself I’m a pickle all day and all night and every moment in between, it’s not going to matter one bit because again, I know I’m really not a pickle.
And it works the same way with these positive affirmations. As their name implies, or specifically spells out, they are to affirm something we already believe about ourselves.
But the thing is, we usually turn to said affirmations when we are feeling defeated, discouraged, self-conscious, or self-loathing, which is definitely NOT the time when we are feeling like God’s gift to mankind.
So if we’re already feeling mad, sad, or bad it doesn’t matter how many times we repeat those lovely words, they’re not going to stick because they have nothing to stick to.
We won’t buy them because those pretty affirmations are too far removed from the really ugly thoughts we are having about ourselves in that particular moment.
If I feel like a total failure and then in the next breath tell myself I’m the most amazing, talented, incredible person who ever lived it’s not going to do much. And this is because there is too big of a gap between those 2 beliefs and there’s nothing in between to join them.
Our brains are smarter than that. We can’t trick ourselves into buying something we don’t really believe to be true. If we want to be able to believe even a part of the feel good statement we are saying to ourselves we need some kind of proof to back it up. In essence, our brain is telling us to SHOW ME THE MONEY! If you will.
Why? Why am I good enough? Why am I worthy of love? Why am I special? Why am I strong? Where’s the evidence? What have I done, said, experienced, thought or felt in the past that proves to me these things are true.
Okay, so right now I’m thinking I’m a total failure. But a few weeks ago I wrotethat blog post and someone wrote to me and said how much it resonated with them and how it really changed things around for them in a positive way. Success!
And last week when I was feeling tired and like a less-than-great-parent and my toddler was being all toddler-y and acting up about every little thing, and then I stopped everything and took a few minutes and sat down with her and hugged her and talked and connected with her, and then we ended up having a great rest of the day. Success!
And then there was that client who is really depressed, and in a recent therapy session we had some powerful breakthroughs and now they’ve now started to be able to see some rays of sun coming through their cloud of darkness. Success!
Okay. Now I can start to believe I’m not a total failure because I have some evidence to back it up.
So I might be feeling like a failure right now, but the truth is I’ve had many a success even just recently. So maybe I’m okay. Maybe I failed at this particular thing today, but I am also having a lot of really important victories.
Now I can believe in myself because I have the evidence to connect to the positive self-statement, or affirmation if you will. Now I have something I can affirm.
So next time you go to give yourself a positive affirmation, instead, pay attention to the self-limiting or self-defeating thought that you think an affirmation might cure. Focus on that negative thought that’s right there in your head.
Then, find some evidence and examples that challenge it. To poke holes in its logic, if you will. To prove to that negative thought why it’s reasoning is not as air tight as it thinks it is.
Argue back and show that bugger why you are not a failure. You are not a loser. You are not weak. You are not unlovable. You are not crazy. You are not a reject. You are not a complete mess.
And then, affirm THAT.
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Julia Kristina MA, RCC, is a CBT, Mindfulness, and Positive Psychology therapist in Vancouver BC. Julia specializes in working with and treating busy professionals who are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or depressed. She also helps her clients find balance and happiness in their lives, and meaningful connection in their relationships. She is also a speaker, workshop facilitator, blogger, scoper, and recovered ‘Friends’ junkie. You can read and see more from Julia Kristina on here on her Good For Me Blog