Way back when, before I had a glamorous career as a Stay-at-Home-Mom and before I got married, I had a job where I got up every morning and went to an office. In that office was my supervisor, who was, without any exaggeration on my part, the most negative person I have ever met in my life. She cast a pallor over the office. Her mercurial moods set the forecast for the work day for everyone, not just her sole underling (me). People avoided her office, and her, as if their very life depended on it. On the door of her office was a paper gun range target full of bullet holes and she had written in her very precise, neat, tiny handwriting, “Go ahead, make my day!” She suffered from migraines and smoked like a chimney and was so out of touch with her own feelings and the people around her that she was utterly shocked to learn that a.) she had a negative attitude and b.) that people didn’t like her, even if she performed all her job duties with precision and dedication. This was not a woman people wanted to confide in, which made her ideal as the human resources contact for our office, don’t you think?
When anything new entered this woman’s life, whether it was a postage rate change, a new benefits package, or a brand new billing program, she fought it with every fiber of her being. It was awful and stressful to be around her. Her negativity could radiate through walls. Many a time a trainer or manager would tell her, “Try to be positive about this,” and she would reply, “Ok, I’m POSITIVE it won’t work.” I know now that she was afraid to fail, clung to rules as a lifeline to make sense of her world, and struggled to learn new things. At the time, I just despised her because she made my life a living hell. I applied for job after job after job trying to get out from under her steely glare, and nothing ever seemed to pan out. I was desperate.
During that time, I discovered the works of Louise L. Hay and the practice of personal power, achieved through positive affirmations. It was a revolutionary practice for me. The clouds parted, there was a golden glow all around (very Touched by an Angel), and a heavenly choir sang when I made this discovery. Well, not quite, but it was what Oprah would call an “Ah-ha Moment.”
Every morning, I would get up at 5 am, pick three affirmations from my deck of Power Thought Cards and go walk for 30 minutes. (Remember, no husband, no kids. It was just me and my misery. It made 5 am easier.) As I walked, I repeated those affirmations over and over and over in my mind. I was fueled by anger and frustration and felt powerless when I started, but as I put the process into practice, things began to shift for me.
My supervisor was still doing daily auditions for the Wicked Witch of the West, I still couldn’t do anything about the circumstances I was in, but it helped to change my reaction to it. There were other people in my life at the time who were detrimental to my mental health, and my relationships changed. The Crazymakers fell away as I grew in confidence, I was in the best romantic relationship of my life (and later married him), and then one day, several months down the line, the evil supervisor resigned, giving a two-day notice. The entire staff spent two days suppressing their glee. Not only had my circumstances changed in a big way, but over the past few months I had gained enough self-confidence that when the manager came to me with the news of my supervisor’s resignation and asked me step up to the plate, I was able to say with absolutely certainty in my abilities, “I’ve got this.” A few months before, I would have waffled and felt unworthy.
Now, I’m not saying Positive Affirmations are magical equations that will solve all your problems. Positive Affirmations will not cure what ails you or give you rose-colored glasses. A week of Positive Affirmations won’t make you skinny if you’re fat, rich if you’re poor, or brave if you’re scared. Denying your feelings and your reality and hiding them under Positive Affirmations isn’t the way to go. You still have to do the work. Positive Affirmations are a tool, and like any tool, you have to use it as it was intended to make the most of it. Using a hammer to sand wood is ineffective.
I have met people who think Positive Affirmations are complete and utter bunk because they seem like false positivity that masks the truth. I admit, there are some “affirmations” out there that are about as substantial as fairy farts and are plain old wishful thinking. Wishful thinking doesn’t help.
Have you read those studies where a placebo will work just as well as the real medication because the participants are told it will help them? And taking a double dose of the placebo will show twice the improvement? Our wonderful, beautiful brains will latch on to belief and take it to the limit. It’s up to us as to whether we chose a positive belief or a negative one. I know someone who will read the side effects of a medication and then will mysteriously get every single side effect after a single dose and then stops taking the medication and the side effects go away. Going into a practice of Positive Affirmations with a spirit of distrust and doubt will have the same effect: the affirmations won’t work. In fact, they can be downright detrimental to your goal setting if they’re used like the Matrix blue pill.
If you are honest about your feelings and circumstances, clear in your intentions, and approach the use of Positive Affirmations as a tool to help shift (shift, not erase) an undesirable attitude, then they become a useful tool for tackling the job ahead. Use what works. Eliminate what doesn’t work. Will Positive Affirmations work for everyone? Probably not. One size does not fit all. I’m a realist. But sometimes the hard work for change needs a helper to keep it going, and that’s what Positive Affirmations are to me. My old supervisor would not have been a good candidate for the practice. She feared change, was rigid in her mindset, and preferred the known quantifier of misery over the change that could bring about the opportunity for happiness. I share what worked in my life with the hope that it helps someone else who is searching.
Did using Positive Affirmations change my life for the better? That’s an affirmative.