I know. The word affirmations makes me cringe too. So many times throughout the years of my recovery, people have said “use positive affirmations! Tell yourself you’re beautiful! It’ll work eventually.”
I was always so frustrated with those people. Didn’t they understand that I didn’t want to be nice to myself? What was the point of being nice to myself when I wasn’t worth doing so?
The farther along I got in my recovery journey, the more I believed I deserved my own decency. It was a long road, full of “no, never mind, I’m not,” and “well maybe,” and “I hate this.”
Two years ago, one of my therapists said something that really snapped me into reality about the whole concept of being nice to myself. She asked, “would you be friends with someone who said you don’t deserve kindness? Would you hang out with them?”
It took me a while to answer those questions, a few solid minutes of absolute silence (because that was her thing–silence until I answered the question). I realized that I wouldn’t be. If someone treated me the way I had treated myself over the years, I wouldn’t even associate myself with them. I would have already cut them out of my life and made new friends that would benefit my existence as a human being.
Even with this realization, I struggled with the language of being nice to myself. If I was being nice to me, could I criticize myself? Could I say negative things?
Of course, some amount of criticism of self is necessary for growth, but complete self-loathing is not criticism. I had to learn how to talk to myself in a manner that was similar to the way I talked to my friends.
I decided to give affirmations a try. At first, I kept them in my notebooks, on my notes, in my journals; places where I would normally write. I’d see them and it would register, but it wasn’t a big deal.
Last year, when I was in PHP after a stint in residential, my friend and roommate asked me if she could cover our bathroom mirror with collages. I said sure, as long as I could see my face before I left for our day at the treatment facility. The next few days were spent with her creating these and putting them up, her goal: to remove the desire to body-check.
Those collages had a bunch of affirmations. I was forced into seeing them, and having to interact with them daily made me realize I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough to change the language I used when talking to myself.
Now, I have affirmations up on my mirror in my bathroom at home. They don’t cover the entire mirror, they’re just written in erasable marker, but seeing them everyday and changing them once a month makes me think of how I want to talk to myself.
The one that never changes, in capital letters at the very top of my mirror, says YOU ARE A BADASS. Other current favorites are “you are not only your body,” “you can do hard things,” and “you deserve your own love.”
With affirmations, I had to learn to take what I needed and leave the stuff that didn’t fit. I didn’t feel like telling myself I’m beautiful the way I am would be helpful, because externally beautiful is not something I strive to be.
I do strive to be more than my body. I do strive to push myself to do what I think I can’t. I do strive to show myself love. I do strive to be the badass that I know I am.
Changing the language with which I speak to myself has been challenging and I still struggle with it sometimes. But I know, every time I interact with my affirmations, I am getting closer to interacting with myself the way I want to be interacted with.