Affirmations can help: Adding action and support to make them work
To err is human. To laugh about and forgive yourself for your errors is divine.
Most people know about positive commentaries called “affirmations.” Affirmations can help move us forward, promote belief in ourselves, and foster trust that all will be well in our worlds. Affirmations can help, but without action and supportive structures that provide the fuel to drive those affirmations forward, they may just be empty sayings.
First, let’s look at the negative stuff we tell ourselves.
The negative sayings that run through are minds are errors, pure and simple. If we make a mistake, it isn’t evidence we’re stupid, that we always mess things up or we’ll never get ahead. Often, though, we make those statements to ourselves. Some of us even then dig around in our memories to connect a current mistake with a past one. Soon, we’re on a put-down loop that does us no good. Regardless, our unintentional gaffs are just dumb mistakes, errors that prove we’re human. The dumb comments we end up telling ourselves about our mistakes then are also mistakes. I call these negative self-talk sayings GAFFirmations.
Self-talk: G-affirmations can help.
Pay close attention to your self-talk. Catch your GAFFirmations and identify them for what they are: mistaken thoughts. Then laugh at the way your subconscious has been trained to put you down. Funny, isn’t it? So enjoy the silliness of your thoughts, then get clear on turning them around. Ask youself:
- How can you demand perfection from a human?
- Does it make sense, and is it helpful in any way to condemn yourself as totally stupid for a single mistake?
If you look at your Gaffirmations openly, you’ll see how silly they really are. And you can laugh at yourself for thinking them.
Even better, your GAFFirmations then become LAUGHirmations.
A recent Texas A & M University study found that the use of humor increased people’s sense of hopefulness. So laughter is great. Perhaps particularly if you are going through severe stress (which can negatively affect hope the study found).
Rather than believe negative self-talk, make fun of how overstepping and ridiculous is is. Enjoy the condemning thoughts for what they are rather than believe them and wallow. Smile, then move on. Or better yet, turn them into affirmations. Okay, so now we’re at: GAFFirmations to LAUGHirmations to AFFIRMATIONS.
Affirmations can help.
When you make a mistake, forget where your keys are, forget to set your alarm clock . . . Be aware of your immediate thoughts. Then, even if negative and burdensome, laugh at the way your mind works. Next, turn the thoughts around, and make positive statements that support you . . . and take you away from the negative thoughts that don’t.
What are your GAFFirmations? Become aware of them. Laugh at them for what they are. Practice turning them around.
Adding action: The next step to making sure affirmations can help.
There’s another component to positive affirmations that is often missing in discussions about them. Life coaching is about taking action, so while telling yourself something positive is a great start, in some cases, an action step, a support structure, or some learning is necessary to put the affirmation into practice.
Let’s take a simple example of losing one’s keys – – a very common problem. Telling yourself an affirmation is a start, but won’t work by itself. Try it. “I always know where my keys are.” First of all, if you don’t know where your keys are, that statement doesn’t feel genuine – – and you know it.
Let’s add action. You’ll need a support structure (a key hook on the wall, a dish on the table by the door, a special pocket in your handbaag. . . .). You’ll also need a committment, a habit (put the keys on the hook, in the dish, or in the purse pocket as soon as you walk in the door). That means you’ll need to make a pact with yourself to utilize the support structure. Simple right?
Don’t forget that habits take time. Devise some sort of a reminder. A post-it on your steering wheel or front doorknob that reminds you. In time, a forced action once connected to positive results (I really do know where my keys are!) becomes automatic (a habit).
What about more complex things that affirmations can help you master? It’s fine to tell yourself, “I’m good at accounting.” But if you don’t know the slightest thing about accounting, you will need to get some instruction.
In a 2004 issue of the journal, Nursing Education Perspectives, an article discussed the fact that Master’s and Doctoral level nurses often don’t know how to write – – but must write for publication to succeed. Educators themselves, the article said, complained that nurses don’t know how to write. If the teachers were saying this, imagine how the students felt. As a result of becoming aware of the accusatory nature of their belief (“These nurses can’t write!”), the support structure of training in writing was added. These teachers, as well as the Master’s and Doctoral nursing students could have simply used affirmations (I’m a good writer. I write very well.). But without the structure of added training to help them write, for most of the students, the statements couldn’t come true.
Ask yourself: Where can I provide structure that supports me, so that affirmations can help?
Affirmations really can help, and can be part of a living in balance and joy.