Synopsis: The huge and often poorly dealt with problem of self ‘dis’-affirmation is first presented; followed by why affirmation from others is not enough; and then how to do healthy, strong self-affirmation complete with a 10 Point Program for helping you grow your own healthy self-love through self-affirmation exercises.
The Huge Problem of Self Dis-AffirmationChelsea, everybody agreed, was gorgeous but in her own evaluation Chelsea was sure she was, at best, average looking. Everybody agreed Chelsea was quite sweet but she believed she was far too often very mean. Chelsea made high grades in college but secretly believed she was below average in intelligence.
Worst of all, Chelsea was convinced she was so basically inferior she was unlovable and, therefore, destined for a life of loneliness. Her self dis-affirmation caused her a lot of self defeat and as those defeats mounted she became increasingly depressed and eventually suicidal.
Then a loving friend trying hard to break through to her, forced a puppy on her. Her parents had never allowed pets. The unconditional love this dog seemed to have for her began to put sparks of color into her formerly gray life. Later that same friend, along with another, cajoled her into seeing a very loving therapist.
She soon was aware of the very negative way she was brought up that programmed her to think of herself as sinful, selfish, inadequate and unworthy. With good therapy she fought back, beginning to re-program her inner thinking about herself. One of the tools that helped the most was learning self-affirmation for growing her own healthy self-love.
Chelsea is not alone. There literally are millions of people who as they grew up heard and incorporated far too many negative messages and far too few positive messages about themselves. Too many positive messages without counterbalancing with accurate critiquing of what does need improvement can be a big problem too. However, subconsciously incorporating copious negatives seems to be much more common in many parts of the world.
There also is the problem of indifference where a child hears neither negative nor positive messages about themselves. That can be almost as bad as the problem of too many negatives and not enough accurate, realistic positives. If the negatives are accompanied by a lack of other behaviors that convey love, serious depression and other forms of mental and emotional illness problems seem very likely to develop. Escaping the ‘inner voices of self-criticism’ through destructive substance addiction is thought to be especially common for those with high negative message backgrounds.
Why Affirmation from Others Is Not EnoughChelsea, and many like her, later did get praise, compliments, thanks and many other positive messages about herself but she never believed them. Each positive statement was blocked from doing any good by her earlier training that told her things like “other people don’t really mean what they’re saying, they are just being nice”, “they are after something and trying to manipulate you, so watch out” and “if you let yourself be praised, complimented, etc. you will become egotistical and then for sure no one will want you” and “you’re in danger of being led astray by flattery and false praise.” Not to mention “Thinking well of yourself is the road to destruction and damnation”. Thus, all positives coming into Chelsea were poisoned as they often are for so many.
Once a person has been taught to thoroughly dis-affirm themselves, other people’s positive messages about them often are nearly useless. However, if they are lead to look at the actual evidence of what is truly good about themselves, improvement sometimes can begin. There always are a lot of good or positives which have been hidden from their awareness. The process of learning self-affirmation for the development of self-love can greatly hurry the achievement of healthy, accurate self opinion.
Once the natural process of growing healthy self-love gets started or re-started, it can accelerate. When that happens the wonders of healthy self-love can be achieved and everybody benefits.
How to Self Affirm for Healthy, Self-Love Development
There are many good programs for self-affirmation. Here is an
outline that has worked well for a large number of my clients who’ve
Usually I adapted it somewhat to fit the individual, so feel free to do the same for yourself. You also can weave it into other self-affirmation systems.
SELF AFFIRMING FOR HEALTHY SELF-LOVING, A 10 POINT PROGRAM
1. Start talking back to whatever part of you
tells you not to try this program. If in your head you hear things like
“this is silly, stupid, how can this really help?, its phony, shallow,
don’t ever try because you can’t do anything right and besides you’re
hopeless, or put it off, you will do it someday but not now – talk
back. Tell that self-defeating part of you to shut up, and say it with
vigor and determination! You also might say to the naysayer within
“what you’re doing doesn’t help even if it is meant to, so learn to do
something else better, more positive.” Internal naysayers can become
2. Decide to do the following practices wholeheartedly. After all, the negative messages in your head probably got there with energy and emotion being expressed, so countering them will need the same – energy and emotion. It is okay not to believe this will work but it is not so okay to believe it will certainly fail. Be open-minded to help your experiment not be self sabotaged by your negative programming. Doubt and skepticism are okay later after you really have done the exercises recommended here. It is like physical exercise, you do not have to believe in it, you just have to do it.
3. Start making a list of 100 Good Things About Yourself. Yes, you have at least 100. Small, medium and large, they all count. Most everything about you can be made good use of. If you are short, you can get to the stuff down low. If you are tall, you can get the stuff up high. If you have been programmed to ‘not notice’ this kind of positive (and lots of other positive things) that are true about yourself, when you ‘do notice’, you then probably will devalue it automatically. Whatever is true, or at least a bit true, counts so put them on your 100 positives list. If you have a good heart (kind, caring, empathetic, etc.) that truly is of value. 0ur planet needs more people like you. Got a nice smile? That counts too. It is okay to ask friends, family or whoever for some input on this, but remember, it is about ‘your’ positives, nothing else.
There are two categories of personal value, ‘who you are’ and ‘what you do’, also known as your ‘intrinsic value’ and your ‘extrinsic or production value”. Many people have been programmed to only count their production value, i.e. what they can accomplish, produce, etc.. As you grow elderly or if you become disabled, your production value may lessen. So long as you are alive, your intrinsic value remains. Perhaps you can get a sense of that by meditating on the statement “all babies are born important”. “I was born important”. “I am of value”. Then try to ‘feel loving and to feel loved’ toward yourself, showing yourself you are of (intrinsic) worth. Then, if you want to, ‘do’ (produce) something with those feelings, all the better.
4. Go somewhere pleasant, private, and fairly quiet as soon as you have at least five things on your list of 100 Good Things About Yourself. It is okay if there is pleasant but not distracting music in the background. Then just be there for a few minutes, doing nothing but breathing.
5. Slowly stretch, twist and pleasantly bend your body every way you can. Then sit down and begin to breathe slowly and deeper, at least three times. Think “I will do this exercise to the best of my ability”, with each breath. Continue breathing slowly and deeply, (to your own comfort level) repeating that statement. Then say to yourself “I am doing this exercise to the best of my ability” with each repetition take more deep, slow breaths. With firmness, you may need to command “silence” to any and all other, interfering, or negative thoughts which might creep in. You also can add “naysayer within, I will listen to and deal with your thoughts later but not now. Repeat as needed.
6. Look at your list of five or more good things about yourself and pick one. It is best if it is a short, specific statement. “I can intensely enjoy beautiful sunsets” would be an example. (Anything you know how to truly appreciate is a valuable attribute, so ‘own’ it as a part of yourself!). “I enjoy puns and that is no joke, and it’s a good thing about me” would be another example.
7. Now, from your list, say these good things about yourself, out loud, beginning with a firm “I am… “followed by the good thing from your list.
Something to know, motions help change emotions. Therefore, begin to move your arms in ways that express how you want to feel about what you have just said. If you strongly said “I am smart”, putting a finger on your head with a bold gesture would be an example. Whatever ‘negative’ got in your head, probably was expressed and received with certain tones of voice, facial expressions, body posture and perhaps hand and arm gestures.
If someone scowled at you, pointed a finger at you and in mocking tones said “you’re so stupid”, it isn’t just the words that stuck in your head. It is the whole picture, with sound. So it will work best, if while you’re implanting a counterbalancing positive in your head, you are doing it with vigorous, strong movement and sound. Looking in the mirror while doing this can get to the facial expression part. If you were scowled at, smile as you affirm yourself.
Talk simply and in the present tense. Declare the positive about yourself. Sometimes it helps to add a short bit of evidence. “I’m smart! My good grades give me strong evidence that is a truth about me”, is an example. Each out-loud statement, done with motion, may counterbalance or erase as many as seven negatives that came your way, some experts suggest. It is okay to pound your fist, shout, get up and march around, dance, jump, or anything else that helps you intensely live your affirmation of yourself. Remember to command the naysayer within, who may be trying to tell you this is stupid, silly, etc. to be silent.
8. Now pick another item from your growing list of 100 Good Things About Yourself and do the procedures just described. As your list grows to 100, keep repeating this process with new items from the list. Doing this exercise once a day and at the very least once a week until you have done this exercise with at least 30 of the self affirmations on your list, is strongly recommended for getting good results. Many concentrate on one a day for 100 days. It is good to repeat the ones most important to you. Also suggested, is drawing a little:-) on a calendar for each day you do this, and not being down on yourself if you miss a day. Just pick one tomorrow and keep going.
9. Each time, after you have done the out-loud and strong movement part of this exercise, sit quietly for a bit. Then read this statement to yourself. “I am doing these exercises as acts of healthy self-love because I am important to myself, I am worthy of my own love and, therefore, feeling good and being positive about myself, to myself, is a worthy exercise. I am in the process of ‘owning’ all that is good and miraculous in me. By doing these things, I am becoming thankfully happy about who I am, and how I am me. I will strengthen and improve myself with these truths about me.” Then close your eyes, breathe deeply and slowly again, and meditate on what you have just read for at least two or more minutes.
10. After doing the above exercise with 10 of the items on your list of 100 Good Things About Yourself, add this statement to your meditation reading. “I will love others better as I love myself better”. Then close your eyes and meditate on how you will make that true.
Now, go and do some of this and start noticing how it helps you feel about yourself, as you keep doing it.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Do you know and live by the truth that you have to ‘do’ different, again and again, to ‘become’ different?