The idea of affirmations is that you regularly repeat a strong, positive statement, and in repeating it you become it. The trouble with this kind of affirmation is the bigger the gap between your disbelief and the enthusiasm of the statement, the harder it is not to have it feel like an exercise in futility and self mockery. Having tried it, that reaction doesn’t help, and the faster it becomes unbearable the less useful it is.
I can’t stand in front of mirrors and tell myself I’m beautiful. I barely cope with mirrors, I find looking at myself uncomfortable. Saying ‘I am beautiful’ a few times every day would be distressing to me. So, what alternatives are there? Below is a list of body statements that I have used repeatedly and found helpful. They aren’t very ambitious, nor fantastically positive and that’s part of why I can work with them in the first place. My cynicism is not kicked off. If I can establish these thoughts as a baseline, I can be more functional and less distressed by myself as a physical presence. That’s enough.
I am ok.
I am tolerable to other people. I can be accepted.
I have a soft animal body, just like everyone else does, and being a mammal is ok.
What this body feels is real and allowed and I respect those feelings.
I am allowed to rest if I need to. Resting is a good idea. I am allowed to rest when I am tired or in pain.
I have a value aside from how I look.
I am a finite resource. I have limits, boundaries, edges. These limits are what stop me from being a pile of squidge. I do not have to go through life acting like I am a limitless resource capable of doing anything. It is a good idea to be realistic and sustainable.
I can’t do everything and this is ok.
Much of the time my body is good enough to do a lot of the things I want to do. This is actually good enough.
In theory, an affirmation is supposed to be wholly positive. So statements like ‘I am beautiful, I am worthy of love, I am a joy to behold’ would be more in the usual style of the approach. However, if you’re starting from a place of really not feeling good, those blasts of positivity can be too much. It may be more useful to acknowledge the problems. Trying to get an upswing of some sort into each repeated phrase is important. The key ideas to work with is that things might not be as bad as you think they are, that self-judgements can be let go of a bit, and to draw attention to the bits of you that you can be ok with.
‘I have pretty hair and I like my clothes choices’ may be a useful thought if you can honestly hold that. It may not tackle deep body issues, but it creates a place of acceptance and ok-ness, and that’s a great comfort improver. If you need to get out of headspaces full despair and self-loathing then a more cautious, less bombastic kind of affirmation may be the way to go.