A is for AFFIRMATIONS: How they work and what to do when they don’t.
It was 2009-2010 and the recession was at its lowest ebb and so was I. For the first time in my adult life, I was without employment. My happiness levels and funds were as depleted as the job market, and I was unable to provide for myself financially. So I gave up my flat and moved in with my sister in an attempt to staunch my bank account’s number haemorrhage.
‘I’m never going to have enough money,’ I thought. ‘I’m never going to get a job that pays enough…there’s a recession, there are no jobs…I’m going to be in debt forever…my debts keep piling up’.
These were my affirmations and I practised them religiously. Day after day, these were the promises I was making to myself. I worried about money all the time, I talked about having no money all the time, and I convinced myself that my situation was never going to change. I was convinced that I was being judged as a failure, but really, no-one was judging me except myself.
I came to believe passionately in poverty, and with every day that I was without a job I thought: See, this is proof that I’m always going to be poor. I didn’t realize at the time that my own limiting beliefs were making a challenging situation much, much worse. I was unable to see that I was lucky to have a sister who’d let me stay with her, and that I was getting to spend more time with my family. I couldn’t see it. I believed only in the ‘bad’ elements of my situation, and I received what I believed.
This went on for months, and my cycle of negativity had evolved into a downward spiral. Despite my negativity, I secretly held on to the hope that I’d be happy again. One day, this hopeful thought managed to force its way into my mind, like a glimmer of light, noticeable amidst the pervasive darkness. The thought that I might one day be happy again dawned on me, like the sun cracking over the horizon and dispersing an inky black night:
What if it’s my thoughts, and not the recession, that’s causing me to feel so unhappy?
When this realization dawned on me, the grip of my inner lack-narrative weakened. Previous to this, I hadn’t considered that what went on in my mind could affect the outside world. But as soon as I made the connection that my negative thinking was causing me to pick out only the events that would justify my beliefs, it resonated through me with the sort of chime achievable only by truth. I knew that for my financial situation to improve, I had to stop thinking so negatively about it.
A few days after I made this new promise to myself, I was visiting a friend in Edinburgh. As I left the train station, I noticed a bright white piece of paper loosely lodged in a crack in the pavement. It fluttered back and forth in the wind, as if it was waving to me. The street was busy, and yet no one had noticed it. As I got a few steps closer, I couldn’t believe my eyes: the piece of paper waving at me was a £20 note!
I picked it up and laughed. It was more than a £20 note, it was a symbol of change. ‘Thank you’, I thought.
An affirmation is a proposition that you think or say repetitively because you believe it to be true, however it is actually the repetition of the thought or statement that convinces your mind that it is true. The process that you go through to convince yourself of the truth of a given statement is unbiased, it works the same whether the content of the proposition is positive or negative.
We are making affirmations all the time. Your life is the sum total of the beliefs you affirm. And you hold those beliefs because, in repeating them, you have assimilated them into your consciousness. Your consciousness adapts to comfortably hold the beliefs that seem true to you. The fact that you are reading this post probably means that you have spontaneously made many negative affirmations about yourself over the years. It has taken you a long, long time to believe what you do. So when you realize that you no longer identify with the beliefs you hold about yourself, it can take time and effort to change. What would you rather think about yourself and your life? Give those beliefs the same repetition that you gave the beliefs that you don’t want, and you will harness the power of the belief–>justification–> belief cycle. Having said that, it can be very difficult to change your beliefs because some beliefs are not under your conscious control. The mind is a miraculously complex entity that can hide nuggets of belief in your subconscious or in half-forgotten memories. For more on this, see my post B is for ‘Belief’. Sometimes, positive affirmations don’t work because the new affirmation comes into conflict with a deeply entrenched belief. When we try to affirm something that is opposed to a deep-seated, subconscious belief, the ‘superficial’ affirmation is not strong enough to change one of our core values, even if, consciously, we really want to change. And when it doesn’t work, we beat ourselves up even more because we failed to change, gave up, or lost the will to do our affirmations, and so the spiral of negative affirmations begins again. If this sounds familiar, try this:
To access the negative core belief and bring it to your conscious mind, ask the belief questions. Interrogate your negative belief. Listen to it and understand it. For example, say you constantly affirm that you are unloved and unwanted. On a conscious level, you know that this belief is crippling you. So you choose a new thought: I am desired and loved. You say it over and over, you write it out and stick it to your fridge, and the magic words are your laptop wallpaper. You work with the new affirmation for a few months and yet, you feel very little difference, and any difference you do feel is undermined by a voice within that chases the affirmation with a ‘yeah right, who could ever love you?’ You don’t really believe this crap do you?’ And you’re right back to square one. This will happen to many people who want to use the power of affirmations to change their outlook. Don’t beat yourself up if it happens to you. When you have a quiet moment, write down the negative affirmation that is deeply true to you. Take a few deep breaths and meditate on questioning the belief. Some good questions are:
Why do I hold this belief?
Is there a specific event that was the initial trigger for this belief?
Are there examples of times when this belief was true, when I felt unloved and unwanted?
Are there examples when the opposite was true, when I felt very loved and desirable? What did that feel like?
What does it mean to me to be ‘loved’ and ‘desired’?
Is there a way that I could love and care for myself more to help this new belief become true?
By questioning your belief, you change your relationship to it, and in so doing, you unsettle its ‘true’ and ‘logical’ place in your belief system, thereby making room for new beliefs. This method takes time and effort as you are trying to rewire your mind without the instruction manual! But keep with it, you’ll extinguish, or at least manage it, eventually and when you do, you will benefit so much from a more positive and empowering set of truths.
Some affirmations are easier to believe than others because we believe that some things are more accessible to us than others. You may feel that a new car is much more accessible to you than true self-love. It is only the fact that you believe that that makes it so (inception, anyone?) The only scale of difficulty in embodying positive beliefs is dictated by our beliefs about difficulty of attainment.
Here are some ‘positive affirmation’ ideas to get you started…
‘I’m sick of being fat, my cellulite is ruining my life!’
‘I love my body. My body is trim, beautiful and radiates with health.’
‘I’m never going to find love, why do guys always treat me like crap!?’
‘I love myself. I am loving, loved and loveable.’
‘*sigh* I hate my job, no one appreciates me. I know I’m being underpaid.’
‘I am inspired by my job. My efforts are rewarded and I am well paid.’
‘Why I am always skint? I hate having no money to enjoy life.’
‘I earn ______enter amount here (I suggest £100,000, or why not a cool million?)_____ per year and I love my life!’
I would be so happy to read your positive affirmations. Leave me a comment by clicking on the bubble at the top right of this post.
Thank you for reading! Until next week, enjoy exploring the You-niverse!
Next week: ‘A is for Angels’.