Sunday, August 31, 2014

Progression of Positive Affirmations

Today, I’d like to tell you a story.

It’s about why I believe wholeheartedly in the power of positive affirmations.

About 8 years ago, University of Delaware, my undergraduate alma mater, held a Love Your Body week. I know many of you are familiar with this. One of the items that was being handed out was a door-hanger that read: BEAUTY IS NOT A STATE OF BODY. IT’S A STATE OF MIND.

I loved it from the second I saw it, but in a hopeful way. I wanted to soak up the wisdom of that statement. I wanted to wake up with a smile every morning knowing it was really true. In short, I had an eating disorder coupled with intense self-perception problems, and that door-hanger made me feel good.

So I took it back to the dorm with me. And I hung it on my door. And I looked at it every day. And I wrote “BEAUTY IS NOT A STATE OF BODY. IT’S A STATE OF MIND” in my notebooks in class. And I wrote it in my journal. And I tried to remember it when I looked in the mirror and hated the image of the girl looking back at me.

Sometime shortly after that, I happened upon this quote by Janis Joplin:

 

I really, really liked it. I read it and knew instinctively that it was true. At the end of the day, it’s only you. If you give up everything, there’s still you. If something or someone takes everything away from you, you’re still left. You are all you’ve got.So I decided that compromising myself, as Janis put it, was going to have to end. I wasn’t stupid – I knew I couldn’t make a decision like that and automatically stick to it. I also knew that as much as I might want to love myself and believe in myself and think I was great/smart/pretty/special, it wasn’t going to happen overnight. I wished I had a Janis Joplin magic wand that I could aim at myself and suddenly embody that quote of hers.I did the best thing I could think of that would instill her words in my brain and her message in my heart. I printed out that quote and I stuck it on my mirror. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw that quote. Every time I thought self-hating things about my body, that quote was there in the image too, reminding me that I shouldn’t compromise myself because I am all I have.

That quote stayed on my mirror for years. I moved it around with me from place to place, even from mirror to mirror. Sometimes another quote of merit joined it for a time, but always that Janis Joplin message was there. I began to think of it like an item on a To-Do List. Like, “Don’t forget the milk.” Instead, it was, “Don’t forget – don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.”

You can’t read something multiple times a day (especially at your most vulnerable and self-hating moments in front of the mirror) and not start to believe it and take it to heart.

It started to work its magic, slowly but surely. Years later, when I moved into my first house with my husband, I framed my little Janis Joplin quote and hung it in my bathroom – next to the mirror. It’s still there. It’s no longer a reminder not to compromise myself. Now, it’s a reminder of my journey and path to self-love.

I look in the mirror and smile. I see that woman in the glass and I like her. I like her face, I like her body, I like her stance on life. I’ve come a long way from that girl who criticized every inch of herself…that girl who thought she needed a tan, shinier hair, more muscle, more height… that girl who thought she was too fat, too big…that girl who told herself she had dry skin, dull hair, small breasts, not-white-enough teeth, and even went as far as to make the declaration that her eyelashes were too short.

I’m confident. I’m brave. I’m great. I’m beautiful. I’m me. And I don’t and won’t compromise myself. I’m all I’ve got. So I don’t need that quote on my mirror to remind me anymore. But I keep it…because sometimes… I like to see it there next to my reflection in the mirror and say, “Thanks, Janis.”

 

photo courtesy of Stuart Miles

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