I have always thought that the notion of daily affirmations - the repetition of uplifting, positive, goal oriented statements designed to boost self confidence and self esteem and improve a person's drive, focus, and overall outlook in life - was silly. I thought they were probably a waste of time and made little or no difference in a person's life.
But in an attempt to try things that I previously discounted (one of my New Year's resolutions), I decided to give the practice of daily affirmations an honest try.
I started by choosing my affirmation. Psychology Today recommends that you tailor your affirmation to a specific area of personal need. Thankfully, I have an extensive list of flaws and shortcomings, updated annually, so I simply turned to the list to find one of my more pressing needs.
I choose # 5 on my list. It's been a problem for a while, and I have a couple friends who are fond of pointing it out to me:
It is hard for me to empathize with adults with difficulties that I do not understand, do not think are worthy of sympathy, and/or are suffering with difficulties that I would have avoided entirely.
In accordance with the Psychology Today recommendations, I designed a positive affirmation that is essentially the opposite of this flaw.
I will feel empathy for those who have made mistakes and have failed to reach their full potential because all people are deserving of my respect, appreciation, and love.
With my affirmation in place, I began.
For the month of October and part of November (five weeks in all), I began reciting my daily affirmation three times as day - as recommended by many sources, including Psychology Today. I recited these words while walking the dog twice daily. I also recited it in the shower while shaving (because looking at yourself in a mirror while saying the words aloud is supposed to enhance the power of the affirmation).
I recited the affirmation at least five times during each of the three daily recitations, for a total of at least 15 total recitations per day. I missed six instances of recitations in all over the course of five weeks and therefore recited the affirmation more than 600 times in total.
1. It was hard to memorize my affirmation. Maybe my affirmation was more complex than most, but I found myself reading it off my phone for the first three or four days.
2. I feel no change in my general disposition regarding my chosen flaw, and therefore the recitation of the daily affirmations seems to have had no effect. I still hold people to an uncommonly high standard and rarely accept the reasons why they have failed to attain their goals and make their dreams come true.
My position remains the same:
If I could do it, so can they. Hard work trumps all.
Perhaps I have changed in a way that I cannot detect, but I don't think so. I feel as dead set on this belief as always.
3. After five weeks, I feel as though these recitations were a waste of time. While it may not seem as if showering or walking the dog are exceedingly productive times in my life, they are actually exceedingly productive. I develop stories for the stage, brainstorm ideas for books, and review prior moments in my day for the purposes of reflection, evaluation and revision during these times, and this work is extraordinarily beneficial to many aspects of my life.
In fact, I never go for a walk or take a shower (or oftentimes drive somewhere) without a specific purpose in mind related to one of these areas. I get a great deal of work done during these times, and these daily affirmations cut into this production significantly.
I came away from the practice of daily affirmations with the belief that the time spent affirming could be better spent. If you want to achieve a goal or feel better about yourself, use the time spent on affirmations on actual goal attainment. Find a way to be productive during this time.
Of course, I'm also willing to consider the notion that I do not benefit from the positive effects of a daily affirmation while others may benefit greatly from the practice. Perhaps some people need these daily affirmations and others do not.
This is not to say that I think this true. It is merely an acknowledgement that it may be true.
The results of my experiment may also be another indicator of my lack of empathy:
If I don't need a daily affirmation to feel great about myself and what I'm doing, why should anyone else? If I can achieve my goals without daily affirmations, you should be able to as well.
Either way, I will not be continuing the practice of daily affirmations. They did not work for me, and frankly, I could not shake the idea that I was wasting time and doing something ridiculous each time I engaged in the practice.
My heart and mind were truly open to the practice, but some things seem so silly that you can only open your heart and mind so much and for so long.