Motivation Monday #1: The Power of Positive Affirmations

I am my own biggest critic almost any day of the week. Critic isn’t even the right word, really. More accurate would be I am my own biggest bully; conductor of the guilt trip train; bus driver to self-pity town; my own biggest abuser.

My angst filled teenage self in absolute emo glory

I think everyone goes through those dreary teen-aged years where you believe that life is a pit if despair and the slightest failure is mortifying. I never grew out of that stage in my head. As I sunk deeper and deeper into my addictions to sugar and flour and drifted farther from everything I used to love to do, those negative self-talk demons just got louder and meaner.

There were times where I would wake up in the morning and from the second I had conscious thoughts drifting through my mind everything internal was a fight. Everything was negative. There were nights where I drifted to sleep with plans to do better the next day and eat healthy and exercise. The morning would roll around and no matter how hard I wanted to follow through with my promises to myself I couldn’t motivate myself to get up off the couch. I would sit silently on the outside but be screaming on the inside at myself to just get up and just do it, even for 5 minutes worth of walking or weightlifting.

The day would roll on, the sun would set, and the only time I got up was to take care of the dogs or eat. I would berate myself internally on repeat all day about how useless, fat, lazy, ugly, and worthless I was. That is not an exaggeration; when I say all day, I truly mean all day. It got even worse if I gave in to food cravings. I would walk in and out of the kitchen grabbing almost anything entirely on auto pilot while I tore myself down for being a weak-willed slob.

The first time I really heard anyone talk about using positive affirmations was last summer and I laughed it off. I actually laughed. It sounded sweet and all – telling yourself how beautiful and powerful you are and repeating that through the day – but I just couldn’t picture myself doing something like that. It seemed so mushy. I brushed it off as too cheesy for me. I was eating better by then and had probably lost about 30 or so pounds. When I first started my clean eating journey, I cut out exercise completely for a few months, but I was starting to get some energy back and was trying to run regularly. I felt like I didn’t need to do anything like that because I was doing great!

Fall, 2020. South River, Ontario

Despite the positive changes I was making to my physical body, those demons inside of me were just as deafeningly loud as ever. If I had a clean eating day, they still told me I was lazy and using healthy eating as an excuse not to exercise. If I did exercise, they told me I didn’t push hard enough. These voices would chastise me if I took walking breaks while I ran. They would scream at me that nothing I was doing could ever make a difference and I developed insane body dysmorphia whenever I looked in a mirror. In my mind, I was the same lazy, fat, weak willed, useless person weight loss or not.

It didn’t matter how well I did or what my accomplishments were. In my mind where no one else could see or hear, I would still never be good enough.

What really changed the game for me so I could understand that my weight loss was not just going to be about physical weight was a beautiful friend that I was doing Kangoo jump workouts with. She is someone who has struggled with her own mental health battles and in our workout group she started to talk about what helped her manage that pain. She wrote such emotional posts about how down she gets some days and how hard she was on herself too. It was baffling to me. Absolutely eye opening. To me was this woman was everything I had ever aspired to be – athletic, strong, confident, beautiful, glowing – yet somehow, she didn’t believe that of herself.

It didn’t matter how well I did or what my accomplishments were. In my mind where no one else could see or hear, I would still never be good enough.

What really changed the game for me so I could realize that my weight loss was not going to just be about physical weight was a beautiful friend that I was doing Kangoo Boots workouts with. She is someone who has struggled with her own mental health battles and in our workout group she started to talk about what helped her manage that pain. She wrote such emotional posts about how down she gets some days and how hard she was on herself too. It was baffling to me. Absolutely eye opening. To me was this woman was everything I had ever aspired to be – athletic, strong, confident, beautiful, glowing – yet somehow, she didn’t believe that of herself.

Coming from a place of being as unhealthy as I was, I put physical fitness and physique on a pedestal mentally. “Once I get to ____ weight, I will be happy,” or, “once I have abs and no more flab on my arms will be happy,” was what I had been living by. These were the mantras I created and lived by whether I was doing it consciously or not. A friend baring her own truths was the dose of reality I needed to understand that no amount of physical healing was going to heal my heart and my mind.

My bathroom wall above my mirror. Painted in December, 2020.

I circled back to the realm of positive affirmations and decided that I had nothing to lose. And to be truthful, no amount of exercise or dieting was more tiring than listening to the negativity in my own mind. I tried to follow a few pages that posted motivational quotes daily and weekly, and some specifically about self-love. I even spent a solid 3 hours kneeling on my bathroom sink under a how light fixture to paint some positive affirmations on the wall. I knew if I did it there, I would at least be forced to read positivity every day even if I didn’t say it out loud or believe it.  I made sure that I would be forced to read “I am strong. I am beautiful. I am worthy.” every single time I looked at myself in the mirror.

Just as gradually as I fed my demons for them to grow as powerful as they did, I have been gradually able to starve them out. As days passed and I forced myself to focus on statements of love and kindness, little by little, I noticed that I was slowly silencing the voices in my head that tell me I am not good enough.

If you want to be more motivated, be kind to yourself. This is coming from someone who spoke to themselves for years in ways that I wouldn’t speak to my worst enemy. Yes, it will absolutely feel silly because you have the same demons as I do that are telling you that you’re not good enough to feel positively about yourself. I can tell you with certainty that, gradually, if you resist the urge to laugh this off it works.

Tell yourself you are proud of yourself, even if you only managed to make your bed that day. Tell yourself that you are strong, even if all you did was put away the laundry when the kids went to bed. Tell yourself you are worthy of happiness and health, even if that means giving yourself a break. Tell yourself that you are beautiful, because you are. Say these things to yourself as many times as you can for as many little reasons as you can all day long.

Positive affirmations don’t even need to feel like constant compliments, though I do still recommend them as a confidence booster. Changing the ways, you think and speak about your day makes a world of difference in outlook and happiness. When I am feeling down and my demons are trying to trick me, they will try to bring me down by making me worry about small tasks and aspects of my day. When I flip their script into a positive one those tasks always seem less daunting.

“I don’t want to mess this up!” – “I want to do this well.”

“I don’t think I can do this.” – “I will put my best effort in and do the best I can.”

“I have never done that before I’ll probably screw it up.” – “This will be a good learning opportunity.”

If you change your words, you change your perspective. If you change your perspective, you change your attitude. If you change your attitude, you change your level of motivation.

My voices telling me that I am not worthy or special are not gone. Even as I wrote this, the doubting words creep in that I couldn’t possibly be wise enough to help anyone else. I tell that even if I help one person out of thousands, that will make it all worthwhile. Some days they put up a bigger fight than others to keep sticking around but that is ok because I will find new ways to fight back.

When all else fails, if I find myself losing my grip on my positivity, I find it best to look back at old pictures or videos of myself. The evil me really loses the ability to argue about my being weak when I am the one with the evidence to the contrary. There is no negative force inside of me strong enough to take away the pride and the joy I feel to see how far I have come since last year, or even last week. No matter how many hard days I have had, I made it through each one. I will make it through the next one, the one after that, and every one after that.

I am strong. I am beautiful. I am worthy. So are you.

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