You have the power within your own thinking to replace limiting messages with those that are positive, affirming, and life-changing. -Hilda R. Davis
When I wrote my dissertation, I placed a message on my answering machine that said, “I will not be available to return your call for three months. If you want to leave a message, you may!” My friends were (thankfully) not offended and thought my message was funny. More importantly, they got the message that I was not as available as I had been, but could still be reached. That external message that made a difference during a very intense period.
But the message that made more of a difference was what I said to myself as I was writing my dissertation. I had to give myself encouraging, inspiring messages for those months of writing. Positive self-talk was so critical to the process that I wrote inspirational scriptures and quotations on sticky notes and placed them around my apartment. I taped them to light switches, the bathroom mirror, the stove, and the refrigerator. I even placed the notes on my potted plants so I would see the words when I watered them. I knew I needed these encouraging words to keep going and to offer resistance to self-defeating thoughts—Why are you doing this? This is too hard. You’ll never finish. But I did finish. I believe the pretty words I told myself made a difference in my outlook and outcome.
When I worked as a therapist at a substance abuse treatment agency, I witnessed the benefits of positive statements. I led group therapy four times a week and began my sessions with an affirmation statement. The one I continue to include in my own life is, “I am safe, I am well, and my mind is at ease.” I repeat that affirmation when I feel myself becoming anxious about a situation. It was one tool we wanted our clients to use when they felt the urge to use their drug of choice. The purpose of repeating the affirmation was to take their minds away from the thoughts that lead to negative behaviors and to refocus them on thoughts that result in a better lifestyle. Daily use of positive affirmations often helped change the thinking that led to negative behaviors.
This type of positive self-talk/affirmations/“talking pretty” is also used as part of the behavior change model in the therapeutic approach of cognitive-behavioral therapy. “Cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT] is the most often recognized treatment model that implements positive affirmations in the healing process. CBT encourages people to develop positive self-talk, an approach . . . by Donald Meichenbaum that emphasizes changing what people say to themselves, both internally and out loud.” (Fundukian 2011)
It’s not always easy to overcome some of the negative messages that go through our minds. Some of the thoughts we have that limit us came from people whom we love and who love us. Sometimes they believed what they were telling us would protect us: “Don’t try something so big; you will only get hurt.” People in authority may have said negative words to us because they did not want us to get ahead: “You are only where you are because of Affirmative Action, not hard work.” Then, of course, there are people who say negative words to us because they are indeed trying to hurt us and keep us from feeling happy and successful: “I’m surprised that someone like you could get that job (husband, house).”
The good news is you don’t have to keep playing those negative messages over and over. You have the power within your own thinking to replace those hurtful and limiting messages with powerful, affirming, positive messages.
Regardless of what type of affirmation you use, I highly recommend a daily dose of “talking pretty” to yourself. You will experience more joyful living.
- Walking slowly and peacefully on a cloudy, cool day
- Making delicious guacamole with healthy ingredients
- Eating a bowl of homemade chili on a rainy day
- Painting my nails a pretty color
- Getting a full refund on a mattress pad I returned
- Enjoying the Vacation Bible School lesson
- The crape myrtle in bloom outside my window