Why feeding your mind positives may not be enough
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that positive thinking and affirmations are valuable in maintaining mental well-being. What you focus on becomes your version of reality, affirming your positive attributes can help you value your self-worth.
But what if this isn't for you? I for one am someone who found it really difficult to 'fake it until you make it' with positive self-affirmations and this set me on a course to discover why. After all, with so much evidence and followers of positive affirmations and self-talk, why wasn't this working for me? And more to the point, if it wasn't working for me then I could be certain that there were others that this 'model' of supporting mental well-being wasn't working for either.
What I discovered is a small but very powerful value called authenticity. Without straying too far from the subject, values or criteria are what we hold within our belief systems as important to us. Values such as honesty, trust, kindness are common, to the point that they are accepted in an unspoken way. However, there are many more values that are more individual such as authenticity, congruence or genuine, which are other similar descriptive words.
For me, authenticity is a value that is quite high in my hierarchy of values. Therefore it is more important for me to be authentic/genuine/congruent than it is for me to follow a well-researched process of boosting my positive mental well-being. Hence the reason for positive affirmations not being so useful for me - unless they are authentic.
Does this resonate with you? If it does, then read on.
So, if you have recognised that your internal dialogue or self-talk is negative and self-berating and you are someone who values authenticity, how do you change it? The best thing that I can do is to share what worked for me.
In the past, I was probably my own worst enemy, I didn't need anyone else to be critical of myself, I did that to genius levels, all by myself. I created such toxicity within myself that I became truly chronically ill. Of course, there were other factors in the mix but this was a significant factor in my range of chronic illnesses.
How I found my way out of this loop of destructive thoughts was, to begin with genuine, authentic things that I was proud of myself for or that made me happy. Small, simple things that occurred every day. That I could genuinely say that I was proud or happy about. Those everyday things such as going out and meeting a friend (I was depressed and anxious). Being kind to myself when I could do no more (I had chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia).
Step by step, I began to create a new habitual way of viewing myself that was genuine and authentic. Teaching myself to recognise the good in me. I then progressed to recognising other aspects that I was good at, my achievements, the change I had created, feeling empowered by my new skills. Each and every day I would spend time reflecting, finding the positive that I could hand on heart say that I was proud or happy about.
Self-compassion was a regular, it was something that I wasn't very good at, to begin with, but the more I recognised that it was genuinely beneficial to me, the easier it became to recognise this as valuable.
The same with being calm - having had anxiety, I can tell you that calm is something you don't often feel. So I began to actively notice all the times when I dealt with a difficult child/person calmly compared to how I used to. I noticed all the times I didn't get upset when perhaps I would have done.
Then I extended this to perfectionism, which for me was a total saboteur. I started to notice and be positive about all the times I let things go even though they weren't perfect - such as how the dishwasher was loaded, whether the curtains had been pulled properly, somebody getting something wrong and resisting the need to correct it, you get the idea!
I was able to reflect on this in my head, but I recommend that you write it down and read it regularly so that you can reinforce those authentic and genuine positive attributes about yourself. A journal, a colourful happiness jar, post-it notes all over your desk - do whatever works for you.
The main thing is that you do it. Although it is the same as positive affirmations in many ways, there is a subtle yet important difference.
Everything you write must be genuine and authentic that you internally agree with. Otherwise, like me, you may say the words but they are empty, without meaning, incongruent and unbelievable.
Make this one change to a tried and tested way of improving your self-worth and self-esteem. Make it a daily healthy habit and you will begin to re-write your version of you in an amazing way.