Affirmations have changed my life.
Our minds are powerful tools of our lives. I’m a firm believer in the idea of changing one’s thoughts as the root of recovery. It’s the internal process that enforces true shifts, true progression, into a life outside of whatever one’s struggle might be. Our thoughts are impregnable communicators to ourselves. Nothing gets closer than to the source of who we are because our minds are what control our lives, our actions, and our hearts. Thoughts are spiritual. They leads us down a plethora of paths throughout our lives. That kind of power is both remarkably wonderful and terrifying.
For me, and for many of you out there who read my blog, it’s an eating disorder that has taken captive of our mind. That’s when the power of our thoughts is terrifying. Our brains, literally an entity of ourself, takes the truth of the world and manipulates it into these creatures of malignancy. Somehow, we fall into these ideals of preaching worthless sentiments onto ourself. We think insults berating who we are somehow improves our life.
For those out there who have never struggled with a mental illness, that makes absolutely no sense. And that is what is so frustrating about having a mental illness, whether it be an eating disorder, OCD, anxiety, or anything else… they don’t make sense.
I can try all I want to explain to others why sometimes my brain is my own enemy, but when I say that, it sounds silly and trivial. <– even that is negative self talk.
That’s what I’m trying to change.
A lot of my recovery has centered around the idea of a mental shift. A transformation of what my mind focuses on in the day-to-day regime of being a 20-year-old college student in San Diego. Where I’m geographically located- on a college university in Southern California where just about everyone is hyper-focused on their health and/or physique- I’m setting myself up for the worst types of thoughts.
Thoughts of comparison.
Thoughts of inadequacy.
Thoughts of depression.
Thoughts of failure.
I look around and I see people who seemingly have it all together. Instantly, my mind reverts back to what took me down the black hole in the first place. I’m not good enough.
Even now, almost three years into what I consider real recovery (the anniversary of that will be Thanksgiving!), I still have the instinctual urge to condemn myself for everything in life that I’m not doing. Why? I don’t know. Life likes to challenge us by making everything just a bit harder than it needs to be.
This has been a focus of mine in my own spiritual growth recently, as I want to rid myself of that initial thought. One day, I was reading an article about a topic I’ve heard about for ages now, but then something in my head clicked.
The article itself was centered around self-love and the foundation of how that begins. If you’re a frequent blog reader, you probably know the main sticking points: take time for yourself, sleep properly, eat well, stay active, and learn to say no. That last one stuck out to me.
Learn to say no.
Usually, the context of that phrase is in relation to others. Oftentimes we as human beings find it difficult to deny someone of a favor they ask us help with. We don’t like to disappoint others, but then we end up hurting ourselves in the process by becoming overwhelmed with our responsibilities. A form of self-care is recognizing when it’s okay to turn down an invitation or politely say no to someone who needs assistance. Our society has come to normalize this act of self-care. I love that.
I want to take it a step further.
I want to say no to myself.
When a thought pops up into my head that is not conducive to my own personal well-being, I’m not going to pass it off as a “hard day” for recovery. I’m going to pass it off as irrational. I’m going to scratch it out of my head and refuse to let it settle into my mental capacity. Sorry insult. There is no property for sale. There is no space for you in my head.
There’s a few ways to go about this:
Write it Out
If you’re like me, you keep a journal. My journal has no method such as bullet journalling or end-of-the-day meanderings. I just kind of pull it out when a thought pops into my head. Sometimes, the entries are two or three lines and others go on for pages. I recently came across the journal I kept while in my junior and senior year of high school, which is the time in which my eating disorder emerged and took full force of my life.
For a few weeks, I would walk past it sitting on my shelf and stare at it. Part of me wanted to tear it open and read through the words, but there was a larger part of me that was terrified of it. I don’t even remember much of the time in which I was fully succumbed to my eating disorder, but from what I do remember, I was a terrible person to others. I didn’t want to know what I was like to myself, separated from the eyes of others.
Eventually, I did open it up. Sure enough, the words in their were appalling. I wrote the worst of the worst. After that, I didn’t open it again. There’s now no need to do so. I’ve even contemplated burning it, because I’m into poetic metaphors like that.
However, it did give me an idea I’ve tried out and have really come to enjoy. Now in my current journal, I allow myself to write out the insipid, irrational thoughts my eating disorder occasionally tries to convince me to believe. In the beginning of recovery, I used to not let myself write them out, because I felt like, if I did, they suddenly became more real.
When I wrote them down on paper, I saw them as something separate. A distinct phrase or remark- separate from myself. That helped me disconnect from the words because they were no longer within me. The words belonged to the page. Not to me.
Scratch it Out
Now, I take it a step further. I cross it out. I give the words permission to sit there on the page. I stare at them. I appraise them. I force myself to understand how wrong the words are. How they hold no power over me. By keeping them bottled up inside of me, by giving them space in my head to thrive, that’s where they retained their power.
Putting them down on the paper is the first step. Crossing them out, invalidating their worth, refusing to accept the comments or false ideas- that’s where I get my power back.
Replace the Sentiments
Remember when I said our minds are both incredibly wonderful and terrifying? This is where our minds can become beautiful once again. How we speak to ourselves, internally and externally, matters. Any time an irrational, disordered thought pops up in the mind, replace it with an affirmation. Keep them personal to your situation and your needs.
What do you need to hear at that moment?
It can be directly related to it, such as changing, “I should have run more than two miles this morning,” to, “I ran two miles. That was a great day to set my day with intention.”
That is the most basic of all premises, but it perfectly exemplifies not only the ease of the switch but the power within it. I’m a firm believer in finding the beauty in everything. There is something to be learned and grown from every incident in life, if only we have the courage to seek it out.
Affirmations give us the tools to focus on the positive qualities in our life. Affirmations act as a buffer between the stressors that cause us to slip into old thoughts and routines that might not be the healthiest for us. Affirmations render us inimitable from anything in life that mentally tries to tear us down.
I know affirmations are often seen as frivolous and silly phrases that fuel one’s ego, but I wholeheartedly believe in their power.
We are also able to affirm the ability to deal with current challenges. For example, “I have the resources I need to finish _____,” or, “I am strong enough to make it through _____.”
Changing self-talk requires a daily, conscious effort. It’s something that will take time, but it does get easier. It requires uncovering the sources for the internal negativity and one’s willingness to acknowledge the mental illness as a whole and something that can be overcome. Through this, our affirmations gradually overwrite our negative messages.
Initially, these affirmations my not feel true. That is okay! They don’t have to feel true. Eventually, they will. The goal of repeating affirmations so often to ourselves is simply to achieve a loving, amiable, peaceful, and most importantly, respectful relationship with ourselves. Only then can we take on recovery fully.
Here’s a list of some standard affirmations that are able to work in numerous situations:
- I am okay.
- I am safe.
- I will keep myself safe.
- I am lovable.
- I am loving.
- I am worthy.
- I am beautiful.
- I am creative.
- I have the resources I need within me.
- I am intelligent.
- I am strong.
- I have power.
- I am compassionate.
- I am a child of God, or of the Goddess.
- I am in God’s hands.
- The energy of the universe flows through me.
- I am whole.
- I have everything I need.
For a fuller, and more extensive list of affirmations, this website can be a resource. I picked the above out as I wanted to be inclusive of every identity that might happen on this post and relate. Mental illnesses don’t have a look or identity to them. They can happen to anyone.
Questions of the Day
- What’s an affirmation you find particularly relevant to your life?
- What’s one act of self-care you find beneficial?
- How are you doing today? Where is your mental space at? <– Use the comment section as a place to reflect on how your week has gone. Tell me what’s on your heart. Reminder: this blog is a safe space. We are all here for one another.