Let's face it, most of us are not satisfied with who and what we are. We don't
think we are thin enough, smart enough, capable enough, any sort of enough to have
value as a person. And that is a very poisonous outlook to have. After all, if you
don't like yourself, how ever will you learn to love and value someone else?
For most of us the messages about our shortcomings are learned early in life. Sometimes it is the result of verbal abuse, but it may also be the result of childish teasing, a careless statement made by a parent that hurt more than it should, or even something innocent taken in the wrong way. There are many phrases that put us down. "Boy was that dumb!", "Gosh, can't you do anything right!" "You'd be so pretty if you'd just lose a few pounds." These are the things that start us down the road to self-loathing.
Then we do the worst thing possible. We pick up these simple statements and we internalize them. We start saying them to ourselves over and over. And over time they become more and more poisonous. "Boy was that dumb", becomes "Boy am I stupid." "Can't you do anything right", becomes "I can't do anything right". And so on. We no longer need an outside source to tell us we aren't the wonderful person we'd like to be. Oh no, we are quite capable of beating ourselves up all by ourselves. We no longer love ourselves, we can't believe others can love us, and we can't believe that others are lovable. We are alone and lonely on an island of our own making.
So how do we begin to unlearn these falsehoods about ourselves and learn to love ourselves again?
That is where a simple exercise called affirmations is a useful tool that anyone can use. Affirmations recognize that it has taken time for the negative messages that we have internalized to instill their poisons in our psyche. Think of the messages as being the needle on a phonograph which eventually wears grooves into our beliefs about ourselves and then cannot go anywhere but down the same negative groove. To undo this damage, we are going to have to give ourselves new messages and allow them to wear a new set of grooves in the record of self.
Start out by coming up with a simple, positive statement that reflects what you would like to come to believe about yourself. Keep it short and straightforward. It might be something like, "I am a worthwhile person", or "I am lovable" or my favorite of all, "I like myself". And remember to keep it in the positive sense, say "I am pretty", not "I am not ugly". Also, keep it in the present tense. "I am worthwhile", not "I'll be worthwhile". If you put your desired goal in the future, that's where it will stay...and you'll never get there.
Now that you have come up with the phrase, or more than one phrase, you want to use, it's time to begin wearing that new groove into your own personal mental record. This is going to involve repeating that message over and over to yourself many many times before it begins to be a part of you. After all, the negative messages didn't get in there overnight now did they? I generally recommend shooting for 500-1000 repetitions per day as a good figure to work from. "Oh, my gosh!", you say, "How can I ever do that!" Actually it is easy, and much, much quicker than you think. Start by making yourself some sort of counting device so you can keep track of the repetitions. Anything will do, but I like a string of beads that I can carry around with me and use throughout the day. Mine is made of a string of 100 inexpensive wooden beads with every tenth bead being slightly larger so that I can easily keep track of my count without having to even look at the beads. Anytime you have a moment take out the beads and start counting out repetitions of you chosen phrase. You'd be surprised at how many you can do stuck in traffic, riding the bus to school, waiting in line at the supermarket, filling your gas tank, and all those other empty moments of the day.
At first you may feel silly saying these things to yourself, and your self may be shouting back that you are wrong, wrong, wrong. Change is never a simple thing, especially when you have had years to get to where you are. But remind yourself that you aren't happy with your current situation and you truly want to change for the better.. If you stick with it and persevere, over time the positive message will get in there and drown out the old negative sayings. You will learn to love yourself, that love will show in your interactions with others, and that will attract all sorts of blessings into your life. And if you are really having trouble believing when you are starting out, try adding another affirmation to you list, start repeating the message, "My affirmations work!"
Counseling / Main Index
Last Updated 19 October 2001