Affirmations and how they can help you start a ‘lifelong romance’ with yourself.
It was Oscar Wilde who once said: ‘To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance’; yet we don’t often really stop to consider what loving oneself means, or why this might be important not just for our own fulfilment, but also to enhance the lives of those around us.
It is common to feel uncomfortable about loving oneself, to feel it is the same as selfishness, or to feel that it might be self-indulgent to spend time appreciating yourself. But the challenge we have in finding our deeper self is to take this time to appreciate who we are and learn to accept and cherish our own uniqueness. Affirmations can really help with this.
Affirmations are positive statements or phrases we tell ourselves, about ourselves, such as ‘I choose to be happy’ or ‘I am resilient and strong’.
Often the practice of affirmations is saying the positive thing out loud and repeating this a few times. This may be at the same time each day. Some people prefer to do this quietly to themselves on their daily commute (if they have one), others prefer to look themselves in the mirror after they’ve brushed their teeth and start the day by telling themselves something positive about who they are, repeating it while looking themselves in the eyes.
This is part of the wider practice of positive thinking and self-empowerment. If we have a positive mental attitude which is supported by affirmations, we are more likely to achieve successes and strive towards what we really want.
Most people have heard of affirmations, but if you’ve never tried them before, the idea can seem pretty awkward. Telling yourself how awesome you are can seem weird. It is not something many people do in white western culture, so it feels alien to many people. If this is true for you or if you’re a sceptic, it is worth knowing that there is a genuine theory and a fair amount of neuroscience behind this practice.*
The concept is simple, if we reinforce negative or unhelpful thoughts such as ‘I can’t do it’, ‘I am not capable’ or ‘I am not loveable’ we start to believe these and then they become true to us, and our actions reflect these thoughts. It is very easy to get caught up in negative thoughts, and to not actively challenge them. Have you ever had feedback from someone where they say four good things about you and one not so good thing? It’s easy to focus on the one bad thing rather than the four good things.
Knowing that this is our natural tendency, we therefore need to be a bit more proactive about the positives. Put simply, affirmations they are positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts. Practice makes perfect, so the idea is to pick a phrase and keep using it – at first you might not believe it, but over time you will start to take on board the positive message and leave the unhelpful thoughts behind. This will take time, so be patient with yourself, and trust it will happen. Just the practice itself will start to make the difference. It will induce positive chemical releases in the body even if you don’t start off by believing what you are saying, so as the old saying goes ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. Positive affirmations can be used to combat our often subconscious patterns and replace them with more adaptive narratives.
When you need a boost in the day, say the same phrase to yourself. Use this phrase to encourage positive changes in your life, and to boost your self-esteem. Also, those who develop more self-appreciation in this balanced way tend to make for reliable, kind friends and good partners.
If you want to give this a try, just follow these easy steps:
1. Practicing positive affirmations can be extremely simple, and all you need to do is pick a phrase and repeat it to yourself. If you are not sure what to pick, here are some examples you can use or adapt:
I choose to be happy
My life is taking place right here, right now
I’m gifted with and surrounded by amazing friends and family
I opt to rise above negative feelings and ditch negative thoughts
I am resilient, strong, and brave, and I can’t be destroyed
Nobody but me decides how I feel
When I lie down to sleep, everything is as it should be, and I rest content
I am in charge of my thoughts, and I don’t judge myself
I accept and love myself, thoroughly and completely
2. Repeat the phrase a few times a day, perhaps at the same time and in the same place each day, so it becomes a habit. If you feel like it, you can make this part of a routine or ritual of self-care, such as massaging your hands with moisturiser as you say the phrase.
3. If you still find yourself getting caught up in negative self-talk, don’t worry, you’ve not failed, it is all part of the process. Just try your positive affirmation phrase again or pick a new phrase that you feel more comfortable with.
*For more about the science behind affirmations check out: https://positivepsychology.com/daily-affirmations/