I am by nature both a skeptic and a cynic, two traits that often lead to sneering at new trends, especially those which seemingly have no basis in this little world we call reality. When a friend recommends The Secret to me, I laugh. Like the gang from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, all I hear is that if you wish for what you want enough, you'll get it. At what point do I rub the magic lamp?
Slightly less crazy, but still high on my incredulous scale, are daily affirmations. You know, standing in front of the mirror repeating to yourself that today will be a good day, you're a good person, and, gosh darn it, people like you. That sort of thing somehow changing your life for the better. Hell, it's everywhere, from self-help books to Thomas Jane's character in Hung.
So I got to thinking: how does one change their personality? That's really what daily affirmations are about, battling your insecurities and making yourself a better person and one who reacts differently to each situation. In effect, you're trying to convince yourself to be a different you.
Have you ever noticed that your initial reaction to a situation is often knee jerk and quite possibly negative, or at the very least restrictive? Or how when you get some less than stellar news you immediately blow it out of proportion? Then you take some time, talk it out with a friend or loved one, and what do you know – you feel better. It feels good to air out what's inside and express your thoughts and feelings. Feedback helps some of the time too.
This might not justify talking to yourself — after all, you could just talk to a friend. But one conversation rarely alters an entire life. It may solve one problem or brighten one day, but when it comes to lifelong change, well that takes commitment. That takes repetition.
Repetition is the key to learning.
It's why you had math flash cards and quizzes and why the basketball coach made you shoot free throws twenty minutes a day and the tennis coach made you serve a hundred balls a practice session. The more you do something, the more automatic it becomes.
If you think about it like this, talking to yourself (mirror optional) doesn't seem so crazy. All you're doing is discussing something or advising yourself and exercising repetition. If you tell yourself every day that you will make the right food choices, and you repeat it a few times every day, you'll find that phrase popping into your head in the grocery store or helping you drive by the McDonald's instead of through it. Err, through the pick-up window area.
Now, there are limits to this, of course.
Telling yourself you're handsome won't reshape your face, but it may reshape your perception of yourself and thus give you more confidence, which in turns makes you more attractive to others, despite still looking like an ogre. I'm sure you've wondered from time to time how some mutant has so many friends or always gets the girl – well, he's confident with himself.
When you feel like life may be spiraling out of control and you're looking for a way to bring it back down to a normal rotational speed, you might want to try just talking it out. Loud. With yourself. Yes, it sounds borderline crazy. Yeah, if someone sees you, or overhears you, they'll probably laugh. But hey man, this is about a better you.
What does one say to themselves on a daily basis?
Everyone is different, but we all face pretty much the same challenges. Focus on the area of your life that is causing you distress and talk yourself through it.
Here are a few easy ones for you to take for a spin:
- I will not worry about what I can not control. (Tip: You can't control other people)
- I will make the right food choices today.
- Today is going to be a good day. I feel good. (Hey, it's a classic)
- Today, I will be productive.
- What's done is done. The past is the past. Tomorrow is a new day. (And the sun will come up tomorrow, tomorrow)
Sure, they may sound cheesy, but then again, this whole exercise is a little cheesy. But cheese is tasty and this exercise can actually help you change your ways. For starters, you're taking time to relax and gather yourself every day. You're practicing repetition of the thoughts and ideas that can help you change for the better.
Whatever your preconceived notions may be, if you're feeling the weight of the world, your job, or your relationship pressing down on your shoulders, if you're feeling like you've got no one to talk to, just go take a look in the mirror. There's someone willing to listen and tell you what you need to hear.