When it comes to affirmations as a useful tool for healthy mind, body, and spirit, I am a decidedly late bloomer. In fact, I remember attending a leadership workshop in my late 20s where the leader suggested to a room full of clergy that we begin each work day with the affirmation: “I will overwhelm this day with my competence.”
I burst out laughing. That snorting middle-school kind of laugh that you can’t turn into a cough mid-gasp. I thought he was making a joke. Like any number of helping professions, the more I learned, the more I knew what I did not know.
Telling myself out loud “I will overwhelm this day with my competence” would somehow magically fix the dysfunctional non-profit board I argued with in front of the bathroom mirror too many nights?
Turns out the joke was on me. Because it actually did work to tell myself on those mornings I felt overwhelmed with doubt and imposter syndrome that I was about to “overwhelm this day with my competence.” First, it helped me laugh a little at myself. And then, it helped me name my own competence. I did indeed possess some competence in that position, but focusing all the time on what was not working or what I could not change or fix or what I could have or should have done better… well, those well-worn mental ruts never help me do anything constructive.
My new-found affirmation did not change the board members I was working with. But it did change me.
Since then, I’ve become a bigger believer in affirmations as a way to rewrite some of the most unhelpful, untrue, and still completely normal tapes of discouragement and self-sabotage that play most unwelcomely between my ears. Affirmations can help train our minds to think more of the things that are true. “I will allow myself to be imperfect” is a favorite affirmation of self-compassion. It seems obvious. And yet, unconsciously, many of us expect ourselves to never make mistakes.
Here are 10 handy affirmations for people who don’t like affirmations.
- It is entirely possible this day won’t suck. (Substitute “meeting,” “week,” “year” as needed.)
- If I can feel feelings, I’m not dead yet.
- Do what you can, not what you can’t.
- I will allow myself to be imperfect.
- It is okay to say “yes” to healthy.
- I am worthy of rest. (No brainer, right?)
- Anger is energy. Anger is care. This care can make a difference somewhere.
- You’re not the boss of me. (Originally stolen from a pair of salty socks, I now address this one to negative self-talk thoughts.)
- I am the ring-master of the shit show. (Also on a favorite pair of socks.)
- I will overwhelm this day with my competence.
These affirmations aren’t likely to change the people you work with or the circumstances in which you live and move.
They may help you be kinder to you.
P.S. It’s not an affirmation, but some form of Loving Kindness Meditation (sometimes called Metta Meditation in Buddhist practice) has centered and strengthened me every time I can get over myself enough to use it. This one was put together in Australia and comes with a handy tear off sheet for your bathroom mirror or dashboard. The ever-popular Jack Kornfield offers another variation. Rev. Ellen M. Swinford wrote the beautiful version included in Prayers and Blessings for Healthcare Workers, also published by Morehouse Publishing in 2021.
Me in front of the bathroom mirror trying to drown out the scolding voices in my head with halfway decent affirmations