Positive Affirmations: Why I Don't Use Them
Recently, I’ve been quite obsessed with the word responsibility and the meaning it holds.
A month ago, I took an online training to figure out finances, to learn how to make my work become sustainable financially over time. Allison, the teacher, shared a couple of things about the entrepreneur mindset, how it’s just as important to be in the right one as having a profit or a business plan, especially if you’re on the (mindful) entrepreneur journey for the long run.
It got me thinking about positive affirmations, for some reason. You know, the ones you can look up on Pinterest to get rid of anxiety/heal your chakras/heal whatever needs healing. They go like this:
You get the gist: they’re short (or longer) sentences made to help you feel better and conquer whatever mindset obstacle is in your way. The idea is that you repeat them over and over again, during your meditation or through journaling.
And while they’re intended to provide support, enlightenment, love, and all these wonderful positive feelings... I’m just not sure they’re the most effective way of working through emotions, feelings, limiting beliefs you have you work through. ‘Effective’ might sound like a bit of a strong word and maybe not the one you’d expect in a yogi blog post (whatever that is), but let’s not fool ourselves, who wants to waste time on fluff and stuff they don’t need?
Pre-made positive affirmations make me cringe exactly because of that: using them b) doesn’t help you as much as you think they do and b) makes you adopt a narrow-minded attitude towards yourself.
a) positive affirmations don’t help you as much as you think they do
You have your own set of ideas, your own experiences, and more importantly your own needs. You can’t use these one-fits-all, quick fix, magical solutions to overcome your struggles and obstacles. Sure, they might give you a sense of relief when you let them ring around in your mind. Sure, they might make you feel like you’re doing something right. But I can’t help but think they’re just a temporary bandage and feel like a way to hide what you don’t want to deal with under the rug. That leads to point B.
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b) they make you adopt a narrow-minded attitude
By forcing positive affirmations on your mind, you leave all doors closed on all other negative and difficult emotions that need to arise. You know the 5 stages of loss & grief? Psychologists say you have to go through denial, anger, bargaining and depression before the final step, acceptance. My guess is that it doesn’t only apply to loss and grief, that some version of this circle applies to any kind of event or situation you have to go through. What if you don’t want to feel accepting first? What if you feel angry? Sad? What if you need to grieve? What if your mind simply needs its freedom to feel creative and come up with its own set of ideas and words (cf. point A)?
Anna here also why being positive all the time doesn't serve us.
Listen to yourself and trust your personal journey instead
The interesting thing about affirmations - not positive ones, just affirmations - is that they can truly help you shift your mindset in more than one way; the thing is you have to put in the work to find the words that will serve you and your mind.
to affirm: to state something as true.
I like to finish every single meditation with thank you and these words have become an affirmation in their own right. I like to feel grateful for the universe/God/myself for the roof over my head, the new day I get to enjoy, and so many other things that change everyday. And sometimes other words come in, sometimes they don’t, but there’s always one guiding principle in there: they’re the result of my morning meditation, all the thoughts I noticed that day, or the result of my journaling practice. They fit me and my needs. They fit my energy and creativity levels. They’re a direct result of my inner work.
In a way, that’s why responsibility got me thinking about positive affirmations: I feel they don’t allow you to take responsibility for what happens in your mind. They take too much space in there and block any possibilities for deep awakening - by that I mean realizations, breakthroughs, epiphanies - and deny your intuition of its right of entry.
But… Realizations, breakthroughs, epiphanies, intuition…
Isn’t that what yoga is about?