I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with affirmations.
I get the premise: that everything is energy, even our thoughts so that we attract (or don’t attract) what we put out (or don’t put out) into the Universe.
So, sure, I understand the theory. I’ve even tried it many, many times over the years:
I love and accept my body just as it is.
I welcome abundance into my life.
I am calm, focused and patient.
Some days or moments those things are true. Other times, not so much. And me saying them doesn’t make them true.
The thing is, each time I said or wrote an affirmation, it felt fake. I felt fake, like I was trying to put one over on myself.
I would pooh-pooh that voice, assuring myself that it was my Ego talking and Ego was bad. I wanted to be in touch with my authentic, soulful self, the part that tossed out into the Universe exactly what I wanted, ready to graciously receive whatever it had to give.
Even when it felt wrong, I kept trotting back to the practice of affirmations. It reminds me of eggplant. I think I should enjoy eating eggplant. It’s a healthy vegetable. I eat healthy vegetables. Well. I’ve tried preparing eggplant every way possible: baked, broiled, sautéed, grilled. Each time I am less than impressed. When I mentioned this to my sister she said, “Maybe you just don’t like eggplant.”
I swear, that was a revelation. Honestly, that had never occurred to me. But once she said it I realized that it’s true.
I just don’ t like eggplant.
What a relief. The pressure was off on my quest to scour the internet for yet another recipe that would turn me into an eggplant convert.
One of my turning points on my path toward becoming a non-affirmations convert came when Oprah was touting “The Secret” and that book went flying off the bookshelves. I admit. I bought one. But almost immediately there was something about it that just rubbed me the wrong way. Something judgey and blamey about the whole thing.
While the theory of affirmations can be seen as empowering, it can just as easily be the opposite. We get sick? We’re broke? Single? Unhappy? Well, then we must not have wanted it sincerely enough. We must’ve sent bad juju thoughts out into the Universe that repelled what we wanted instead of calling it forth.
How affirming is that? Not very.
My final break-up with affirmations came recently when I saw this quote by Pema Chodron:
“Affirmations are like screaming that you’re okay in order to overcome this whisper that you’re not. That’s a big contrast to actually uncovering the whisper, realizing that it’s a passing memory, and moving closer to all those fears and all those edgy feelings that maybe you’re not okay. Well, no big deal. None of us is okay and all of us are fine. It’s not just one way. We are walking, talking paradoxes.”
None of us is okay and all of us are fine.
What a relief.
It’s okay to not be okay.
Once again the pressure was off. The pressure to always be thinking the “right” thoughts, to always be on, not letting my guard down lest the Universe swoop in and deliver the opposite of what I thought I wanted.
And don’t affirmation denote a lack of trust on our part? Thinking we know what is best for us? Maybe the Universe has something even bigger in mind and our little affirmations were keeping us small.
So, now that I feel I have permission (from Pema Chodron no less!) to trust my original belief that affirmations are bullshit, I feel much freer.
Free to get close to those edgy feelings that allow me to be truly authentic.
Free to live with and embrace my paradoxes.
Free to be my real, messy, complicated self.
And there’s nothing more life affirming than that.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Jan via Flickr