Have you ever done morning affirmations? Like, “I’m awesome, I’m awesome, I’m awesome, ad infinitum”? I have. I don’t believe they work. And I’m not alone in this belief, scientists have done experiments that demonstrate that affirmations not only do not help you but that they actually have the power to make you feel worse about yourself. Let’s admit it, affirmations are pathetic. Here’s the abstract of the study:
Positive self-statements are widely believed to boost mood and self-esteem, yet their effectiveness has not been demonstrated. We examined the contrary prediction that positive self-statements can be ineffective or even harmful. A survey study confirmed that people often use positive self-statements and believe them to be effective. Two experiments showed that among participants with low self-esteem, those who repeated a positive self-statement (“I’m a lovable person”) or who focused on how that statement was true felt worse than those who did not repeat the statement or who focused on how it was both true and not true. Among participants with high self-esteem, those who repeated the statement or focused on how it was true felt better than those who did not, but to a limited degree. Repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, but backfire for the very people who “need” them the most.
Interesting isn’t it? Those that already knew they were awesome, felt better, but only them, and up to a point.
When you know you’re the shit, you do not question your shitness. You know you’re the shit. But what happens when you doubt yourself? Why did the people that didn’t felt the affirmation was true felt worse?
First and foremost, the mind needs and is always looking for coherence. Your mind does not care about how you feel or how you want to feel. It only cares about surviving and dealing with reality as best as it possibly can so that you can survive and reproduce.
When you stand in front of the mirror and repeat: “I’m awesome… I’m awesome… I’m awesome”, what your mind does is that it gets busy looking for evidence within your memory bank to discern whether your affirmation is coherent or not. If your brain finds contradictory evidence, and trust me, it will find it, dear brain will show it to you. It’s as if your mind is telling you: actually…………. you’re not that awesome Rick, here’s why:
- You haven’t finished the thing you said you were going to finish.
- You didn’t call your friend to congratulate him on his newborn daughter.
- You haven’t finished that course that you know can help so many people.
- Other reason.
- Other reason.
- Wtf! stop it brain!
Is this bad though?
It is not bad. That is what your brain is designed for. It needs to make sense of the world and work with reality as best as it can.
‘Why are you such a pessimist brain?’
‘Dude, I’m a realist.’
Would you rather have your brain telling you that you’re awesome even though everything in your life points out in the opposite direction?
Of course not. What good would that be?
Tripping in sobriety
The hardest part of going sober is dealing with feelings of inadequacy and anxiety, at least for me.
I tried to be positive, trust me. But when everyone around you is having an alcohol-induced amazing time, it’s hard to fake that you’re just the same as them. You’re not. My mind tells me how stupid I look. My friends tell me I’m making a huge deal out of not having even one harmless beer. I try hard not to feel anxious and inadequate. I force a dumb smile and some Yeahs! Here and there but to no avail. In the end, what works is just accepting my ugly feelings and my ugly self and try to dance and chat. Once I do this I begin to have a good time.
When you go sober, you realize just how much feelings you hide underneath the rug.
Three beers usually did the trick for me. Three beers made me relaxed and fun. I tried to do the same while sober and pretend to be relaxed and fun. But you cannot lie to yourself, your mind will always know the truth and tell you: nope, you know you’re not this “I´m awesome, I´m awesome” person.
I needed to work on those feelings. I needed to work on myself. And so I did. I began to go out as often as I could to deal with my shit. And you know what? You get better at it. I don’t know how to describe it, but you’re ugly feelings transform into good feelings. They are the same, but they take on a different meaning.
Anyways, you do this until your sense of self is coherent with reality. COHERENCE!
“A Stoic is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.”
― Taleb Nassim Nicholas
I love this quote from Taleb, it’s concise. It’s a summary of what I’m about to say.
I feel that saying affirmations in the mirror is like running away while at the same time covering your ears and shouting the affirmation so that you cannot hear the important information someone has to tell you.
Positivity feels the same way. Don’t think about the negative! Don’t think about the negative! You’ll attract it!
What kind of bullshit advice is that? What happens when the bad stuff indeed comes to happen and you’re not prepared because you chose to believe it wouldn’t happen?
What happens is that you’re unprepared to deal with reality as it is.
The stoics used the exercise of premeditatio malorum (premediation of evils). Instead of thinking and wishing for the good and the positive, a stoic asks himself: what’s the absolute worst that could happen? And with this question, two things happen. First, you come to see that the situation you feared so much is actually not that terrible. Second, you reduce your anxiety because you’re no longer fighting against the unknown, now you have a plan, now you’re prepared.
Instead of preaching that you’re awesome, why don’t you better ask yourself why you’re not? The affirmation is horseshit. But the question? The question is telling you something you can actually work with. Try to do that instead.
Show, don’t tell.
Thanks for reading,
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