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Several years ago, I repeated affirmations constantly.
I repeated them while I went running and wrote them in notebooks over and over. I even carried one to work with me.
I listened to inspiring audiobooks while I went on long walks and read them in my off time.
I visualized. I meditated (a little bit). And I started to believe I could create anything I wanted in this world, just by wanting it. By saying that I wanted it. By believing that I could have it. All I had to do was just change my thoughts and my point of focus. And “feel the feeling of it in my body.”
You can manifest anything.
I spent about a year or a year and a half in this state. Until I was hit with a kind of “last straw” experience that filled me with an all-too-familiar stress and anxiety over an all-too-familiar situation.
Shortly after a particularly rough night, I stopped doing everything. Stopped trying to force what I was forcing (an unfortunate tendency of mine in life).
I pretty much stopped doing anything at all.
I just meditated. And sat (or lay) with all of the crap that wanted to surface. And there was a lot of crap.
Stuff I’d spent my entire life (unknowingly) suppressing and repressing.
Every fear and insecurity, thoughts and feelings I didn’t even know that I had; all sorts of things seemed to flood me from places I didn’t even know existed.
I had “insights” that shouldn’t have felt so revelatory, really, but I’d lived so much of my life willingly (though unknowingly) blind to what was really happening in front of me and within me—the truth of my actual feeling and lived experience. I was constantly realizing or feeling into or processing something.
The thought of affirmations made me cringe.
I became disconnected from all of the positivity stuff I’d been immersed in the year before. It felt so shallow and hollow. So inauthentic.
And it’s because it was and is (at least in the ways that most of us try to use it).
The truth is that affirmations are superficial. They may feel good to a very outer, surface layer of us, but they will never create lasting change. It doesn’t matter how many times we repeat them. It doesn’t even matter if we start to “feel the feeling of them” in our bodies.
We cannot make change by repeating pretty words that lightly makes us feel good in the moment—because all of the discomfort we feel (the reasons for why we are repeating the affirmations in the first place) lies deeply rooted in our unconscious.
Those deeper fears and pains and uncomfortable parts need to be seen and acknowledged and heard. They need to be given space to arise into our conscious. They need to be looked at and felt into and allowed to flow through us.
This is not a process that can be forced, but it is one that we can allow.
And we must.
There is a power in simply allowing ourselves to bear witness to what is happening within us. To sit with it. To be with it. To feel it. To allow ourselves to acknowledge and experience and understand it.
It feels uncomfortable to feel uncomfortable emotions. And it feels downright terrible to have to see some of our less flattering habits, patterns, thoughts, and tendencies.
It even feels shameful to actually have to admit that we feel shame and other similar feelings.
But it’s also freeing. Because these things are a part of us—even if we don’t like it and don’t want to admit it.
The discomfort, the restlessness, the fear—this doesn’t go away by only trying to shift to a more positive outlook. These parts need to be seen, looked at, heard, and understood.
They need space to help us learn what we’re meant to learn from them.
Our lives don’t change by just trying to gloss over the hard parts with temporarily good-feeling words—because they don’t address the deeper reasons and causes for why we’re dealing with the harder, more difficult parts in the first place.
True change comes from being willing to feel and face and admit to our fears, our insecurities, and our bad habits and tendencies. It comes from being open to seeing and learning from our least wonderful parts. The ways we are inauthentic.
Affirmations (and other more positivity-oriented tactics) aren’t all bad. I even kind of like them now and use them sometimes—but they have a time and a place. They aren’t the deepest or most important parts. They are like add-ons or as my boyfriend has said, like “the cherry on the top.”
This process of discovery can’t be forced. We can’t force ourselves to see what we can’t see or know what we don’t know.
But we can be curious and interested and willing.
Willing to understand and learn and change and grow.
We can hold this willingness as our intention.
Change doesn’t come from pretty words that make us feel good temporarily.
It comes from feeling into and learning from our actual lived and felt experience.