Suddenly it was as if my world was saturated by affirmations, “Start your mornings by saying them, make sure to write them down in your journal, look at yourself in the mirror to truly change the narrative as you begin to rebuild the decades of negative self talk”–Trust me, I understood the assignment.
Yet, for some reason, affirmations were a tough sell for me-I needed to go further than to just repeat, I needed to reprogram myself.
When I thought about saying an affirmation, I couldn’t help but picture this disheveled middle aged man, one who glaringly appears to be going through a major mid-life crisis. His hands white knuckled as he tightly grips onto his steering wheel of his twenty year old sedan, driving so intently as to not to miss a word of his audiotape. The sound of his repeated affirmations suddenly becomes clear, he listens first then pauses, his calculated response repeats the words “I am good enough.” He continues along repeating the phrases on his tape as he’s stopped in the far right lane of the freeway, sitting in the same traffic jam as he always does, heading to work another day at his job. Somehow this audio tape becomes his last beacon of hope.
I have spent years dismissing affirmations, I couldn’t quite place why but they felt foreign to me. I couldn’t recite a phrase like “I am safe,” without feeling as if I was making it up. But as I begin to face the parts of me I wanted to change, I began to incorporate them into my routine. As I began to peel back the layers, I realized the reason why we say them. I realized the extent of damage I had done to myself from years narrating my life with self-deprecating humor & negative self-talk. The parts of me that I was held on to + was willing to protect that I created an image of a sad little man instead of understanding their purpose.
Affirmations are responsible for rewiring your entire belief system. Most of us have said phrases like “I can’t possibly do that, I won’t be able to afford that, I’m not skilled enough.” cross their mind, some of us have these thoughts multiple times a day. Whether you thought it or said it out loud is irrelevant-the damage is done. The universe has heard you and is delivering whatever narrative you have created by your thoughts.
Take any affirmation out there: I am love, I am joy, I am safe and now think of the opposite. Reciting daily affirmations is reprogramming our mind from all those years of giving attention to our limiting beliefs. Affirmations are simply words negating our fears. Fears we have unknowingly picked up throughout our lives whether it is through society or within our own human experience.
Society defines what normalcy is, whether it’s through media portrayal, government, laws, expectations, behaviors, or social norms. It defines, for the most part, what we should believe. Then take in to consideration our own fears fostered from our upbringing based on how we felt safe and loved as a young child and adult. Collectively all of these ideas come together to create our reality somehow distorting it in a damaging way if we allow it.
Don’t believe me? Hear me out.
Affirmation: I am love
Fear: I am unlovable.
My personal experience: My father didn’t love me the way I needed to be loved. In return, I understood that as: he didn’t love me. The truth is, I know he loved me as much as he was humanly designed to love but it took me a long time to understand that.
I remember watching a clip of Oprah sharing the challenges she faced with her relationship with her mother. It wasn’t until Oprah found her mother on her deathbed that she began to forgive her and accept her mother as whole.
What stood out the most was a clip where Bishop T.D. Jakes states “when you are a 10-gallon person and you want love, you want it on a 10-gallon level, but [sometimes they] could be a pint person, they could be giving you all that they have — sincerely giving you everything, but it doesn’t fill you up, because you’re bigger than that.“
In those early childhood moments when we are discovering the meaning of love + safety, some of us may have felt love was conditional based on our success or behavior, or maybe we entered a relationship where we gave the person everything we had and in return-we didn’t even get a text back. These are the situations that create traumas and every time our mind enters a new situation that resembles a past trauma, we find ourselves triggered to that exact fear that we left unhealed. Sometimes the intention can be entirely positive but it just isn’t enough for us to meet that need. Instead of looking at ways to make it work, we instead turn to hurt, anger and emotionally disconnect.
However, this is an indication of where you need to focus your healing.
Unlike Oprah, I didn’t have the chance to make amends with my father during his lifetime on earth, he passed away unexpectedly in 2017. Our relationship for many years leading up to his death was strained primarily based on his inability to love me the way I needed to be loved. In my mind, he always seemed uninterested + uninvolved in my life. He also suffered from alcoholism, and would often bring up his feelings of hurt from his past as he remembered it. He believed in an unrealistic version of myself that I was never able to fulfill, and the truth is, I did the same.
I told him during our last conversation that I would always be open to having a relationship with him as long as it could be a healthy one. Instead three years passed by and we never got our second chance.
I had prepared for this outcome + in a lot of ways, it allowed me to find gratitude for how our relationship ended. Through his death, I began to seek understanding and now I have come to love and appreciate his legacy. I look for ways to love him, as I remember his witty and sarcastic nature, the way he loved his music-whether it was Tom Jones or Fleetwood Mac. How he loved to show off the trinkets he loved. I’m still discovering the parts of him though me as I continue to learn how to love us both, but with grace-as I know I’m still learning how to do that.
It took a long time for me to realize that my fear of being unlovable wasn’t anything my dad did to me, rather what I felt as a result of my father’s actions or inactions. My dad loved me and he loved me the best way he could. I am the one who chose to find the inadequacy in it and as a result foster a fear to be loved. This meant I spent years accepting less than what I deserved and felt overwhelmed when the right people tried to love me. The only way I really figured it out was by learning to love myself.
I had heard the concept of self love a million times but over, yet I chose to ignore it. If I can save you even an hour of not loving yourself, take my unsolicited advice: Don’t spend another minute not loving yourself. Find the time, seek inwardly for love. Say the damn affirmations of self-love to yourself in the mirror every day. Listen to them so much until you negate every single experience and memory you have that made you feel or were told to you otherwise. Then listen to them again until you believe them.
I love myself, I am love, I am constantly surrounded by love, I radiate unconditional love, I find love everywhere I go. Mean it. Feel it. Embrace your affirmations, find the parts of you that hurt and then replace it with love + forgiveness for yourself.
It is also important to realize that at any moment, we decide how to remember our experiences, this may not work for all situations, but try to look back on a negative experience with grace. I realized through my situation that it wasn’t my father that I had to forgive, rather it was me who needed to be forgiven. I had to be okay with change, I had to brave enough to change the parts of me that no longer served me.
In a lot of ways, I was no different than the man ever so tightly holding on to his affirmations. So as you find yourself on our life highway, make sure you’re on the lookout for my middle aged ass driving her not so new sedan, looking disheveled with a makeup free face + messy top bun, blasting affirmations as loud as our ears can tolerate with some big ass gold hoops + larger than life sunglasses and be sure to wave as you pass me by on this beautiful journey.
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