Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A User's Guide to Affirmations

A User's Guide to Affirmations
by Beth Harper

How Affirmations Have Worked In My Life

Affirmations have been a Godsend for me over the past few years. I'd like to tell you a little about my life before I discovered how to use them, and a little of what it is like now. I'd also like to give you a few important principles on their creation and use, so you may adapt them in whatever ways best suit your lifestyle.

When I first found myself increasing in size and becoming the large woman that the other women in my family have all become, I was dismayed. All the messages from the media tell us "you really ought to lose some weight." Less-than-well-meaning people tell us we're "disgusting." Doctors give us a verbal poke in the stomach, telling us how much healthier we would be if we used some dietary discretion and got more exercise. All these things added together led me to believe that I was an ugly person who no one really wanted to be around or be seen with. This was despite having a husband who was telling me that the more weight I gained, the prettier I was! I simply did not believe him. To sum it up, my self esteem had to look up to see the floor.

Over and over, my attempts at weight-loss failed. Because of the metabolic changes and obsession with food that dieting causes, as soon as I stopped one diet, I'd find myself heavier than I had been before I started it, but still I'd start another diet only to repeat the cycle. After awhile it became blatantly obvious that I needed to work on accepting myself as I was. By this time, my marriage had ended, and I needed to believe that I could eventually find someone who could love me. I knew from my psychology classes and reading that in order to find someone else who could love me, I needed to start loving myself and believe I was lovable. I started with some affirmations on my own. I began by looking myself in the eye in the bathroom mirror after I brushed my teeth and saying, "I love you." Then I expanded that to "You're a worthwhile person, and I love you."

Later, I got to the point of "You're worthy of friendship and love." At this point, I made up some little handwritten signs, and posted them in areas of my home where I would see them. One said "You're beautiful." Another said "You're smart," and others had additional compliments on them. When I would see one of these signs, I would say aloud the message printed on it. If I was near a mirror, I would look myself in the eye in the mirror as I was saying the affirmation.

And my life now? I weigh around 210 pounds, have a husband who does not consider size to be a factor in a relationship, and as I continue to learn to ignore comments like "You'd be pretty if you just lost some of that weight" from people I have no interest in anyway, I'm very happy the weigh I am today. Using affirmations has worked for me.

Guidelines For Creating and Using Your Own Affirmations

There are some things to keep in mind when writing or using affirmations. One of the most important is that the part of the brain that is receiving the messages does not understand negatives; it blocks out words such as no, not, and without. Thus, if you use an affirmation such as "You're not ugly," the brain gets the message "You're ugly," and nothing positive happens. A better tactic would be to say, "You're beautiful." Sometimes it is difficult to state things without using negatives. Consider how it could be done, and do it--it is well worth the effort.

Another point concerns the use of pronouns. Some people, especially those who are really down on themselves, as I was initially, find that affirmations work better if they are written and used in the second person. If your self esteem is really low and you say, "I am beautiful as I am," the response from your own inner critic will be "B***S***!!!" It is easier to accept a compliment coming from another person than from yourself.

A third helpful strategy is to put the affirmations--whether created by you or adapted from another source--on signs in your own handwriting. This serves two purposes: it makes the affirmations seem more familiar; and the mind believes more readily in what is written when it sees affirmations in your own handwriting.

Of course, if you are going to use signs, you must find a place to post them so that casual guests won't see them. I was fortunate when I was doing this that I lived alone, so I could easily put them in my bedroom, sewing room, or on my bathroom mirror, where they were private. At times when I was married and using affirmations, I've been fortunate in that both the men I've been married to have understood and actively supported what I was doing. It is sometimes helpful to have a supportive spouse state the affirmations to you verbally as well. Those who have non-supportive spouses or housemates have an additional problem to work through.

Using Largesse Affirmations for Size Esteem

I have given copies of the Largesse Affirmations for Size Esteem to several of my large friends, in various life situations, all with positive results. One woman who is single and lives with her parents had to post the Affirmations in her bedroom. She put them on the mirror, and says them as she's applying her makeup. Another woman, who lives with her seven-year-old daughter, put them in various areas of her home. A married woman with three children could only post them in her laundry room, and use the wallet-size card. A man who lives with his parents posted them next to his computer, where he can see them and say them to himself while he is working on the computer. In each case, it has opened up a line of communication for them about size esteem issues.

Five Principles to Remember

Recapping the principles I have outlined here, to successfully use affirmations, you should:

1. Always express them positively

2. Consider whether the use of first or second person best suits your needs

3. Write (or rewrite) them on signs in your own handwriting

4. Post them in a place where your privacy will not be invaded

5. Say them aloud, preferably while looking yourself in the eye

Try it--I'm sure you'll be as pleased with the results as I've been!

Beth Harper is a feminist, fat activist and freelance writer who lives in Colorado with her husband and their cats.

This information is a public service of Largesse, the Network for Size Esteem [http://www.largesse.net/] and may be freely copied and distributed in its entirety for non-commercial use in promoting size diversity empowerment, provided this statement is included.
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