Positive Affirmations Can Kiss My Asparagus
I’ve had some bad days, (hell, I’ve had some bad YEARS) during which I walked around like a portable sprinkler system of negative energy. If someone were to have asked me how I was doing, I would have responded with a loud, lingering sigh, a thin, fake smile, and a weak “I’m okay, I guess.” When pressed, I would have launched into a weary description of how I hated my job, my body, my lack of energy, and my life in general.
Inevitably, I would at some point spill my pathetic guts to someone who had been born with a blindingly bright ray of sunshine planted firmly inside his or her cranium. This person would kindly, if infuriatingly, remark:
“You just have to think positive! Why, I choose to be happy every single day!”
It seemed a little simple, but I had to admit that the people who appeared to have their lives together DID spout a lot of similar phrases. So I decided to try it. I decided to use positive affirmations to THINK myself happy.
For the next couple of days, any time I experienced a negative thought, I attempted to pull a “select and replace” with a positive one. For instance, if I heard my inner Cloud of Doom go, “I HATE this job,” I would immediately think, “Noooooo….I LOVE this job.” I waited for bliss to envelope me. Instead, I was surprised to hear that my Cloud of Doom wasn’t buying my positivity.
“What a complete bag of horse apples. You don’t love this job. How could you? This job is HORRIBLE.”
“No, really,” I replied, mentally frowning. “It’s awesome.”
“Bullshit. It’s the bane of your existence.”
“Um, no…I like it a lot!”
“IT. FREAKING. SUCKS.”
This internal dialog continued WITHOUT PAUSE for the duration of my shift, after which I found myself more angry, exhausted, and frustrated than I had been when I started.
The same thing happened when I tried to tell my vicious inner critic that I loved my body. The bitch (apologies to anyone who has decided they LIKE my inner critic) argued back with so much venom that I retreated after only a few hours of effort. Positive thinking, I determined, was utter hogwash. I returned to hating EVERYTHING and agreeing with myself about it. It was simply easier.
Um….Jessica? Isn’t positive thinking one of the CORE PRINCIPLES that you teach? Isn’t it the subject of, like, HALF the content on this website?
It is, indeed! You know why? Because I figured out what I was doing wrong.
You see, the sunshine-y people who suggested I “think positive” left something out of the equation: they forgot to tell me that it was imperative I BELIEVE the positive thought, at least a little bit. In their defense, they probably had NO idea this was a prerequisite, since they DID believe the very upbeat statements they were trying to pawn off on me. They truly thought you just had to make the leap. They were wrong.
HERE’S THE TRUTH: Your brain will reject an inauthentic thought faster than a baby spitting out his first lemon slice. It will also put up a good fight about any thought that is relatively NEW. So you can’t just start thinking something that is the polar opposite of what you’ve believe for the last year unless you encounter a great deal of evidence for that thought. What you CAN do is this:
MOVE UP ONE THOUGHT-LEVEL
If your constant refrain is “I hate this job,” come up with a couple of other thoughts that are TRUE, but don’t make you feel QUITE as miserable when you dwell on them. Here are some examples:
“I don’t always hate this job” (subtle, but different)
“I hate this job, but I like these people.”
“This job is my ticket to paying for night-classes, which will get me the job I really want.”
You can replace ANY negative thought with a thought that is not so vicious. Then, when you’re ready, you can climb up another step. “I’m fat” becomes “I am a person who has a lot of fat” becomes “I am a person” becomes “I am a person with one or two good qualities” becomes “I am a person with a lot to offer the world.” Eventually, your brain will start gathering evidence for these thoughts you believe, making it easier to take a leap to an even more pleasant idea. You shouldn’t force yourself up the scale too rapidly, but neither should you hold yourself back from exploring where your mind is willing to go. You might be surprised how quickly you are willing to think (and believe) thoughts that make you feel more energy, enthusiasm, drive, and happiness.
Be ready to but a little effort into this. Your brain doesn’t give up old habits easily, so you may still have to replace your old thought with your chosen new one many times throughout a day. However, it should never feel like a fight. Iron-clad resistance is a sign that you’ve tried to leap too far – to get too positive, too fast. Re-frame your thought to something that is more believable for now, and try again. And let me know how it goes. I’m here to help if you need it.