Weekend Reading
February 11, 2024

This week, a close friend told me about the value she’s found in positive affirmations.

She said that they’ve helped to keep her hopeful when she was close to giving up on something that mattered to her.

It’s been a while since I practiced affirmations regularly, and I could use some extra hopefulness these days. I told my friend I was going to try working with affirmations this week.

“Maybe I’ll try them in front of the mirror,” I said.

That’s a thing, right?

The following day, I gave it a try. I stood in front of my bathroom mirror. I spoke a positive affirmation, one that felt right to me for this moment in time, out loud to my reflection.

Yikes. Yikes!

Honestly, it wasn’t only uncomfortable. It felt downright scary—so much so, that shut the lights in the bathroom and exited after one or two tries.

I tried to figure out what was going on. Was it the mirror? Have I held on to more body dysmorphia than I think I have?

That was the most obvious theory, but somehow, I doubted it.

In order to investigate further, I decided to work with affirmations in other ways.

First I tried writing them down. Then I tried speaking them out loud without looking at my reflection.

I got nowhere with these alternatives. I felt paralyzed when I attempted to write, and I could feel my throat tighten as I tried to get words out.

I was stumped. I’ve actually had good experiences with positive affirmations in the past, so it made no sense that they would suddenly be such a challenge.

As I thought about it, I realized that the particular affirmations that I was working with—in keeping with my discussion with my friend—were centered around things that I hope for.

This, I think, is where the practice got bumpy.

I used to have no trouble speaking about my hopes and dreams. That shifted at the end of my thirties. Now I have a very hard time dreaming about the future, let alone naming those dreams.

Some of this is for good reason. It’s an indication of the valuable humility that results from life’s tussles and disappointments.

Yet I think it’s also a good thing to dream, to have hopes and desires that animate our lives.

In any case, I don’t think that so much as speaking a dream out loud ought to invoke terror.

A therapist once was helping me to tackle challenges that I was having with vocalizing wants and needs. She pointed out that, if the topic were to turn to food, I’d know exactly what I wanted and how to ask for it.

“You’re so decisive about food,” she said, “and so articulate.”

She was right. Whether I’m meal prepping at home or sitting down at a restaurant, it doesn’t take me long to know—and, if appropriate, to say—what I want to eat. I know what I desire when it comes to food, and I have a big capacity for excitement.

I love this for me, honestly. It’s such stark contrast to the perseveration, mental paralysis, and fear that used to attend every food decision when I was sick with orthorexia.

My therapist’s point was that I might be able to channel some of the clarity and healthy entitlement that I experience with food into other parts of my life.

I thought about her words as I was stumbling over my affirmations this week. I remembered that I have it in me to own what I want and to state it directly.

I also have quite a capacity for excitement and wonder, when I allow for it. This is a theme that I’ve been exploring internally in the last few weeks.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve revisited affirmations this weekend, but I haven’t yet. I remain resistant.

In the spirit of speaking desire out loud, however, which is part of what affirmations are all about, I’m telling you that I plan to revisit them.

In the meantime, the same friend who talked to me about affirmations mentioned that, if stating a hope or desire feels threatening, it can be helpful to do a visualization instead. Visualizations are just another way to allow positive expectation in.

Yesterday afternoon I gave myself time and space to sit in a meditative state. I relaxed and let my mind trace the shape of these hopes that I have such a hard time putting words to.

As I sat there with my eyes closed, images and visions started to form. They were surprisingly detailed. They were warm and welcoming; it felt good to amble through them in my mind.

I sensed a tingle of anticipation. I felt some assurance, too, a faint but steady current of faith. This is such a rare feeling for me lately.

In short, I wasn’t afraid.

Whether you speak or dream, aloud or internally, awake or asleep, alone or with loved ones, I wish you the courage to hope for what you hope for this week.

Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

1. Speaking of desire, I very much desire these vegan cheeseburger hot pockets.

2. A beautiful warm mushroom salad for these February days.

3. Such an enticing bowl of soba noodles.

4. Eggplant Milanese over a big bowl of spaghetti is the comfort food that I need right now!

5. I’d love to be given a slice of this chocolate raspberry tart for Valentine’s Day 🥰

Reads

1. My nutrition clients ask me a lot about exercise. I tell them, maybe to their disappointment, that it’s not really my lane; aside from sharing some overall guidelines on recommended minimum amounts of movement for overall health and well-being, I’m no expert.

I do, however, give my clients two pieces of guidance, and I’m very confident about both of them.

The first is that consistency matters more than intensity. The second is that it’s important to move in a way that feels good.

Not surprisingly, I liked this article about “cozy cardio” as an ethos.

2. There is a worthy quest to build oximeters that work equally effectively for all shades of skin color.

3. I’ve never experienced a major loss that didn’t entail some amount of anticipatory grief. I think nearly everyone knows what it’s like to mourn for a person, a relationship, a time in life, or a friendship before it’s physically absent.

It was interesting to read about this phenomenon in a concrete way.

4. Childhood vaccination against malaria is being rolled out in Cameroon. If this health measure can be scaled successfully, it could spare tens of thousands of lives.

5. “Savoring your food, ultimately, helps you savor the rest of your life“—amen to that.

My yoga nidra teacher used to end each practice with visualization of a mirror. She’d direct us to look into it.

“See yourself in the mirror,” she’d say. “See yourself in the mirror.”

I once asked her why we always concluded our yogic sleep that way.

She smiled and said she’d be happy to share more if I wanted her to, but getting into the science might take away from the power of the practice.

I chose to simply keep practicing.

Perhaps I’ll bring that practice into the material world this week, with spoken words as an accompaniment.

Till soon,

xo

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    3 Comments
  1. Hi Gena, I’ve been experimenting with affirmations myself for the past few years. I think they really helped me through a very difficult time. Possibly because they give your mind something to focus on instead of ruminating. In my experience, the things that matter the most to us will bring up the most challenging feelings. You could make them a little more general if that’s possible. You can really go down a rabbit hole with this stuff, but there seems to be two “schools of thought” around them. Say them with feeling (like in the mirror as you’ve done), or just say them neutrally and robotically while doing other things or about to go to sleep. That way they bypass your ego/logical mind/internal censor or whatever you want to call it. Good luck. Will be interested to hear how you get on with them.

  2. Hi Gena,
    I hear you on the affirmation piece. The one thing that I find helpful is from “Mel Robbins” re: her “high 5 habit”. Effectively, you high 5 yourself in the mirror at the beginning of the day. She has a great podcast too.

    Take care and stay strong!
    Susan

  3. Hey Gena,
    Congrats on giving positive affirmations another go. I know that some people swear by them. I do think, though, that if they don’t work for you, that’s okay – nothing works for everybody and there is no one-fits-all solution. For myself, I have never found positive affirmations useful at all.
    I think there is a lot to be said for staying with the moment you are in, i.e. for accepting the sadness and anger and despair of that moment or even of that particular phase of your life. I think that phases of sadness and anger and despair are as much a part of life as happiness and hope. I think that sometimes in our haste to find happiness, we forget that unhappiness is part of the deal.
    Maybe that sounds simplistic, but I honestly find it more helpful to remind myself of this than anything else.
    Rebecca x

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