In our intensive outpatient therapy program, we often ask people to come up with a list of affirmations for each year of their life. Some will easily come up with this list (especially those that are less than 30 years old!) and others struggle considerably just to get started let alone finish their list of 40…50…60…affirmations (we’ve had clients in their 80’s working on their lists while in the same week another client in his/her 20’s was working on theirs…and yes they did let it be known how “unfair’ it was!). There is nothing magical about the tie to a person’s age….it just evolved over time as a way of encouraging clients to identify their strengths, gifts, rights, traits, and overall awesomeness.
One of the reasons it can be hard for some to come up with a list of affirmations is because of the non-affirming messages they got in childhood. Another reason is because of trauma they have experienced and the things they came to believe about themselves from this neglect, abuse or other forms of mistreatment. When mistreated- or victimized- by another person, we have every right to acknowledge having been victimized, and do all we can to heal from that victimization. A lot of this healing can come through replacing the disempowered, hopeless, shame-based or in any way negative messages (or “software downloads”) that have become engrained in our heads and hearts. When we replace these toxic lies with truth, and work hard overtime to more fully believe and embrace the new affirmations, change can and indeed will occur.
Some affirmations can apply to most if not all people, and others are unique to each individual. Any message/affirmation that allows someone to more fully and unconditionally love and accept themselves – while still holding themselves completely responsible if/when hurting other people -can be particularly empowering. I have put together a list of what I believe to be (nearly) universal truths for people. Feel free to go through the list and see which ones might apply to you in your own life. If you find that it is hard for you to believe any particular statement as true for you, ask yourself if you see it fitting for most if not all other people you love/care about (e.g. your children or dearest friends). If it seems to be true for everyone but you, there is a REALLY good chance that shame is blocking you from recognizing that it is indeed true for you.
Whether or not you are a victim of some form of blatant abuse, mistreatment, betrayal etc. or even if you do not feel like you struggle with feeling stuck in a victim mentality, you may find the process of going through this list and repeating them out loud to be quite helpful. To take it to an even deeper (and more healing) level, take any one of them and then journal/write out in more detail how that fits for you. For example, write out all of your talents/skills, or some of the things you have to be grateful for, or things you have overcome, etc.
So how do you feel right now after having read those? Are there some that stirred up some emotion as you read them? If so, what were you feeling? Who in your life would easily endorse these statements about YOU? Who would be likely to (or does) send you messages that contradict those listed above? Which ones do you think will be helpful to repeat out loud? I encourage you to pick some that seem most important to you (most antidotal to the lies/shame-based beliefs that rob you of joy, peace, confidence, well-being, etc.) and say them out loud daily for 30 days.
I hope you found this exercise helpful and that you become progressively more aware of how truly awesome you are!! …and don’t share this blog with any PCS intensive clients because that would make their affirmation homework assignment too easy!
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