Based on of the idea that you can ‘fake it till you make it’, affirmations are supposed to be powerful and life changing. But is it really all that simple? Celebrity Psychologist Sherry Gaba preaches, “As you repeat your positive affirmations, you will begin to believe the words. You will face outside stress with newfound confidence”[i]. Yes, I agree that we need to get rid of the negative mental chatter. But I cannot agree that by looking in the mirror each day and saying, “I am beautiful” that we will magically believe it. No matter how often we tell ourselves something, we cannot will it to be true without a basic belief in our own self-worth.
Back when I loathed what I saw in the mirror, I would try anything I could to make myself feel better. For months, I started my day off with a set of affirmations that was suggested to me by the experts of the online self-help world. If it worked for them, then of course it would work for me, right? Every day I would look in the mirror and tell myself that I was beautiful, that happiness is a choice and that my confidence is soaring; but every day I felt like a fraud. I couldn’t see my beauty and I couldn’t see my worth. The problem wasn’t in the affirmations themselves, it was in my mental state. For years I’d been trained by the beauty and diet industry to see where I wasn’t enough, and there weren’t enough words in the world to change that.
You see, if you believe that you are ugly and worthless while continually telling yourself that you are beautiful and loved, you’re starting an inner war[ii]. The conflict between the positive affirmations and low self-esteem creates tension within the body. Every positive statement you make is met with the voice of your inner self telling you ‘it’s a lie!’ Research suggests that the end result of this internal conflict is the increased intensity of those negative thoughts[iii]. Ultimately, the more you try and trick your mind into believing something is true, the more your mind believes it’s not.
So, what do I recommend? What did I do? I started with appreciation. Instead of telling myself that I was beautiful, I asked myself ‘what can I appreciate about my body today?’ Developing gratitude is a great first step towards building a healthy body image[iv]. Some days all that I could think to say was “thank you for not dying while I slept” or “I appreciate that my lungs kept breathing and my heart kept pumping”. It was a start. From there, I slowly started to appreciate other things about my body. My mindset didn’t change overnight, but slowly I began to realize the strength and power within myself.
Now I can look in the mirror and at least feel body neutral instead of body negative (and sometimes that’s enough for me). Mostly, I’m free from my obsessive body thoughts. I’ve realized that my life has a greater purpose than to worry about my bikini body. More often than not, I even feel body positive. I encourage all my Rebels to work on their self-appreciation and personal gratitude. Our bodies do so much for us, and a simple ‘thank you’ can make a world of a difference on both our mental and physical well-being.
Until next time,
Live Life. Love Food. Be Free.