I'd never considered myself a woman who doubts herself. My self esteem needle swung within the normal range, I'd thought, somewhere between genuinely liking myself on most days, yet sometimes reprimanding my least favorite attributes (read: self control in my grocery's cheese department) on others. I'd had friends who suffered from low self-confidence, pining after thigh gaps and pool houses, while I always shook my head in confusion - You'd want to be someone else? You're doubting the person you're lucky enough to be?
But then I began writing a book.
And I wanted to be someone else.
And I doubted the person I was lucky enough to be.
My self-confidence plummeted, and in these months, I learned a valuable lesson: There are parts of our lives we will always, always doubt.
My friend's quest for a thigh gap was my quest to write the perfect book, the one that Cheryl Strayed Herself would read, then personally email me, gushing with praise, exclaiming that This! This is the best book I've ever read!
This is no longer my goal (although Cheryl, email anytime. I love you.).
My friend's dream of a pool house and a rich husband and the new Rachel Comey boots is another friend's desire to perfect motherhood. And another friend's vision for better teeth. And another friend's hope for a thriving candle-making business.
We are all wishers, dreamers and hopers.
And we all, on certain days of the week, doubt the process.
We all doubt ourselves.
I have never believed in foolproof solutions, and yet, there is one. There is one I cannot deny, one that helped slam the brakes on my mind's freight train when self-doubt crippled me from returning to my writing desk each morning.
It is, simply, talking to yourself.
It is calling out the lies that say you're only as good as your latest decision, that you'll never amount to anything, that you don't have the power to change your behavior.
It is pointing a finger at the terrible things you've been telling yourself over the last twenty, thirty, forty-eight years and saying, That. That is not the truth.
They're called affirmations, and I've been practicing them for over three months. I didn't believe them at first, but it doesn't matter, because if you recite something long enough, if you write the words on your heart, your mind begins to pay attention and follow along.
There are five that I cling to, and today, I want to share them with you. (Hint: You can try these with soft instrumental music in a quiet setting, or you can recite them while driving, waiting in line at the post office or before bed. Just repeat them as often as you can. Tuck them in your pocket. Write them on your forearm. Do what you will. Repeat, repeat, repeat.)
1. I know that I have the power to change; that each moment, each morning is an opportunity to try a new, different invigorating way.
2. I know that when I fail, I have simply become successful at trying something new.
3. I can see myself becoming kinder and more forgiving of myself and others.
4. I know that the time to revisit past failures is over. Now is the time to do things out of love and creativity and the joy of self expression.
5. I have everything I need to do the things I was born to do.
If you read them quickly and weren't impressed, try again.
Read each sentence.
It isn't groundbreaking information, is it?
I suppose somewhere deep inside each of us already knows that the above sentences are true, but we've forgotten somewhere along the way.
We have the choice.
We can listen to the old soundtracks playing in our head, or we can dance to a new tune.
And although I don't find myself dreaming of thigh gaps, I never did mind those ballerina calves.