I’ve taken to calling myself a rock star on a regular basis. Not out loud or anything, just silently, to myself. It’s by far one of the best lifestyle changes I’ve made this year.
A couple months ago, my counselor suggested I work on affirming myself more. (By the way, I think getting therapy is something to be unashamed of––don’t be afraid to jump on that train.)
Self-affirmation sounded a little hokey to me. At the same time, it seemed like a bandwagon I should probably climb onto. My counselor pointed out that even receiving affirmation from God Himself (which I do often receive) isn’t the same as affirming yourself.
“You should be good to yourself,” she said.
Good to Myself?
I’ve realized the past few months that I often feel a duty to be good to everyone around me, but less obligation to be good to myself. Where is that commandment in the Bible? And yes, I know it is all too easy to fall into self-centeredness as naturally self-obsessed and selfish human beings, but it is also possible to take self-denial too far. I’ve learned that the hard way.
“Humble yourself so that God can lift you up.” Yes.
But being mean to yourself isn’t the same thing as being humble. And overlooking your own needs is not what Jesus modeled. When he was tired, he told the crowds to go away. He sent the disciples off on their own when he needed alone time. He understood that in human form, he had limitations, and he embraced them.
So, back to calling myself a rock star.
Around the same time my counselor was telling me to intentionally affirm myself, my roommate’s plants were dying up on our rooftop. Long story short, she went out of town for a few months and entrusted their well-being to me. I mostly handled this responsibility surprisingly well (because I’m a rock star), but the last few days before her return, I completely forgot about those poor plants. When I went to check on them, half of them were completely shriveled up. I watered them anyway, but had little hope.
However, not two days later, I went up on the rooftop for a nighttime prayer session and was greeted by a light misting rain. It was lovely. It had been misting like that for most of the day, and I suddenly wondered if it had helped the plants revive. When I bent down to examine them, I found that most of them had magically recovered.
I kid you not, they had looked completely dead the day before––shrunken shells of plants––but now, I could see they were going to be okay. Probably.
I found myself caressing the plants’ leaves and speaking gentle words of affirmation over them. (I’ve heard plants respond to love and tenderness and positive words. I think they’ve done studies, right?) “You’re doing such a great job,” I murmured. “I’m so sorry I forgot you, but you are looking so good now. I’m so proud of you. So, so proud.”
And that’s when it hit me. I talked to plants like this, but to myself . . ?
I used to have really harsh self-talk. Way back when, I used to constantly call myself an idiot under my breath and rebuke myself for all the mistakes I was constantly making. Literally out loud. Man, that negative talk is seriously from the enemy. It is so destructive. And it can be sneaky, too––half the time I did it subconsciously.
These days, I’m not so vocal in my self-beratement, but I still find it much easier to criticize myself than affirm myself. I have to train myself to be positive.
Perhaps I have this subconscious belief that the positives are less important because they don’t need to be changed. The negatives need to be identified and acknowledged so they can be addressed, but the positives are safe to ignore. Wrong. I promise you, if you fixate on all the things you need to improve and ignore the things you do well, you will get overwhelmed. Fast.
Instead, I think we should all treat ourselves with the same love and care plants appreciate. Apparently it’s accepted knowledge that plants do better when affirmed and loved on. Why would humans be any different? Let’s stop pretending to have thicker skin than we do, and be nice to ourselves.
We all have things we need to work on. (If you don’t think you do, then you have an entirely different issue, which this blog post is not equipped to help you with.)
But, I’m guessing there are some pretty great things you’ve got going for you, too. I’m willing to bet that even in the last 24 hours, you’ve probably done some things right––even if they don’t look impressive from the outside, you know how much courage, self-control, or determination they took for you.
I encourage you to take a moment and acknowledge those positives to yourself. You’ll be better for it, and consequently, so will we. I’ve heard that in healthy parenting/marriages, you should give 5 positive affirmations for every criticism, because the criticism bites harder. (Got that one from Tim Keller, though I think he worded it differently.) Maybe we should apply that to ourselves, too.
At any rate, I’m going to keep calling myself a rock star, because every day I seriously accomplish and do so many amazing things––things I don’t want to do, things I couldn’t do previously, some things that are unseen by anyone else, things that are beautiful and good. And those things are worth acknowledging.