I know what you’re thinking.
“I’m Stuart Smalley. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gawdawnit, people like me!”
I used to think these kinds of skits were harmless, but these days I have a more critical view. If nothing else, I believe this kind of humor helps people dismiss affirmations as being hokey or stupid.
“I don’t need to do that, look how ridiculous it is.”
When all it really does is prevent ourselves from taking such practices seriously. Practices which have shown to enhance performance, and increase problem solving abilities under stress, among other things.
But let me start from the beginning
You may not know this about me, but in high school I was a bit of a strange kid. Sure I had a few friends here and there, but overall I had a very difficult time connecting with my peers.
I think part of it had to do with the fact that I was a very intense person. I would go up to girls that I had crushes on and tell them to their faces “I like you” with all this awkward pressure to respond right away. If you’ve ever been put on the spot like that, you know how uncool that is.
The thing is, I had an unusually high emotional intelligence for my age, but an abysmally low social intelligence. I would explore my own feelings and talk about them openly, but would never stop to think how what I was saying could be interpreted by someone else.
It should come as no surprise then, that I suffered from particularly low self-esteem for many years. No matter what situation I encountered, it would always go through the filter of “I’m not good enough.”
For example, I used to I walk by groups of girls who would start laughing, and I immediately assumed they were laughing at me. They could have been laughing at anything, but it didn’t matter because I only saw the worst case scenario.
After High School
Things got a little better in college, and I even managed to get a girlfriend…somehow. The worst part was that I felt like I didn’t deserve it, and as a result behaved in a very needy way. And nobody likes a Needy Ned (you know, like a Debbie Downer).
After college I knew that if I didn’t take matters into my own hands I would always be at the mercy of my external environment and circumstances. I would have no choice but to settle for any relationship that I could get. In other words, not a particularly exciting future.
Instead of getting a full time corporate job (and partly because the economy was busy taking a nose dive), I proceeded to spend a year working on myself. Exactly what I did during that time is probably the subject of an entirely different post.
In any event, it didn’t take long for me to come across the concept of daily affirmations.
How the affirmations worked
Instead of saying what I wished I had or what type of person I wished I was, I crafted the affirmations such that everything I wanted was already true.
For example, instead of “I want to be someone who feels more confident.” Or “I am not nervous around women I am attracted to,” a better way to say it is “I am a powerful, confident man. I know what I want, and I go for it.”
See the difference?
By being a powerful, confident man who knows what he wants and goes for it, the whole talking to women thing falls into place quite naturally. Not only that, but it covers other areas in my life as well. Like how I negotiated payment on a freelance project. But more on that later.
Another thing to note, is that each affirmation was specifically designed to replace negative thoughts (a.k.a. monkey chatter. You know, the nagging voice in your head that never shuts up).
To give you a better sense, here were some of my original affirmations (from 2008) and the negative chatter they replaced:
- I always operate at maximum efficiency and effectiveness. (“I am too slow. I read slowly, I think slowly, and everyone else is faster than me.”)
- I give everyone uncommon value. (“I am nothing special. I have nothing to offer.”)
- All women are extremely attracted to me. (“Nobody would be attracted to me.”)
- I am immune to all airborne diseases and viruses. (“I always get sick.”)
- I am always expanding my comfort zone. (“I am too scared to try new things.”)
- I am a powerful, confident man; I know what I want and I go for it! (“I am too afraid and meek to do anything.”)
- I am a phenomenal dancer, and women love to dance with me. (“I can’t dance.”)
Interesting side note: It’s been so long since I’ve thought about the negative self-talk that it all seems so foreign to me now. Yet, at the time I was convinced that each of them was 100% true.
Ridiculous, I know.
When is a good time to say affirmations?
I originally heard that saying it first thing in the morning and last thing before bed is a good approach. However, I am the kind of person who would get really into them and get excited when I say them.
According to Scott Britton’s sleep hacking course on Udemy, that would be counterproductive since my mind would start racing and I would have a more difficult time falling asleep.
That left me with the morning to work with, which worked out pretty well (seeing as how I’m obsessed with dental hygiene and spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom). Trust me, $20,000 worth of braces implants, and other dental work would have the same impact on you too.
I began by saying all my affirmations out loud while looking in the mirror, and then repeated them all 4 more times. In addition to saying them out loud, I also took a moment with each one to visualize what it meant to embody the qualities that I was affirming.
I’d love to share 2 examples of how affirmations helped me, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave them for next week…
Don’t you just love cliffhangers?