thinking about positive affirmations

Here are some positive affirmations I found:

I am a diamond. It is time for me to shine.

My opinion matters.

I am a magnet for love.

Self-love is a natural state of being.

I am loved and I am wanted.

The site I got them off of has a massive list of all sorts of positive affirmations, these are some of the self-love ones. I guess half of me was curious about the process of positive affirmation and the other half was frustrated with myself for procrastinating. However, as I was reading some of these, I began to feel uncomfortable.
“I am a diamond. It is time for me to shine,” doesn’t that sound self-centered? I realized it was aimed at self-love, but it put me off balance. Growing up, I was taught that the highest form of good a human can do is to serve others. Focusing on yourself was a risky path down to the way of being selfish.
Even “I am a magnet for love”, and “I am loved and wanted”, these two involve other people. It’s like game theory, you can’t map everything out on your own because there are other player’s strategies you need to keep in mind. And deep inside of me, it felt wrong.
Not all affirmations make me uncomfortable or angry, but these particular ones did to a certain degree, and I was trying to figure out why. The answer is relatively straight forward: maybe I don’t love myself enough.
But the question goes deeper, because what does it mean to love yourself? Why do simple phrases get under our skin?
When we compliment other people, we say similar sorts of things without thinking, “Oh my goodness, you’re a Queen”, or “You have so much potential, don’t sell yourself short!”. In those situations, it’s usually clear: this individual being someone of worth is independent of everyone else’s worth. Person A is absolutely lovely, kind, intelligent, funny, and they are all of this without making Person B less kind, intelligent, etc. They are two separate people, and we recognize that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.
Something like, “I am a diamond” insinuates that your own life should be valued more than others. But also: does it?
A lot of the value of a diamond comes from the people who value it, who wear it. It’s a symbol of a bond typically. As living human beings, we exist in networks. There are people who value us, who like us near them. Our personalities in some way are the result of the bonds we have with other people.
As for “I am loved”, and “I am wanted”, these things are easy to doubt. By definition, you aren’t the other people around you. How can we ever be sure we are loved and wanted? Most people assume there aren’t psychic connections or body swapping magics we can turn to.
But this also has caveats we overlook. If you love yourself, if you want yourself, then you are loved and wanted. We need other people, but we don’t need the same exact people every day of our lives.
Sure, we have issues. We can be frustrated and wish we were physically different, mentally stronger, more adept, etc. But this doesn’t mean we can’t love ourselves through that. When we love someone, that doesn’t mean we are okay with what the other person does 100% of the time. Sometimes we can really dislike someone, but we fundamentally love them. The same can be true with yourself.
Self-love is more about being comfortable with the decisions you’ve made. It’s about having hope that tomorrow you’ll be better. It’s like any other relationship, you spend special time, you get gifts, you listen, you communicate (via introspection), and so forth. It’s being committed to making the life you live the best it can be.
Saying you are worthy of love doesn’t suddenly make you unworthy of love. Instead, it actually makes us more likely to love others. If you don’t need to spend all of your energy worrying about your image, about feeling shame over your choices, then you can live a better life for both you and those around you. Self-love isn’t being self-centered, it’s about being comfortable enough in your own skin that you can focus on others in the first place.

 

So yes, it feels weird at first, but say positive affirmations about yourself. Understand why you’re feeling uncomfortable, and why you’re saying it in the first place.

the “but what if” worries that are haunting your heels

Worrying about the future seems ingrained in some people. Others may care not for what comes, they just integrate themselves into wherever they are and trust the flow of the universe to bring them to where they need to be. The worriers, however, can’t. It’s a matter of control, what if I’m not prepared and I lose what matters most to me?

We do what we can to prepare for the future, and we want to be reasonably ready for any situation. Some people are where they need to be already, and just need to learn how to let go. They need to trust that things will work out, trust themselves that their work is enough. Their efforts are enough, and their worry serves no good. It’s a reminder that some of us need to hear: there can always be more work done, but if you’ve put in the work you can, you need to trust that that is all you can do.

However, not everyone has that luxury. Sometimes people are below a certain financial line and know they can never be reasonably ready. That’s the problem with telling people to, “Just don’t worry about it”, because the same situation could ruin one family and be barely a dent for another. It’s the privilege of the rich, for good or ill.

But how do we live, knowing we aren’t ready? How do we live, knowing that we aren’t safe if something goes wrong? How do we trust things will be okay when we know if one thing goes wrong, it won’t be?

Poorer people have lower IQ. This is not a cause to their poverty, but rather a symptom of it. When put into demanding situations, our ability to see the larger patterns are limited, and for good reason. The stress forces us to focus on right now, to get through the day. It’s survival, and we can’t to sit back and luxuriously view the options without care. The issue is that sometimes we need to be able to see the larger pattern, the bigger picture. Our minds need to rest a bit so they can understand the context.

It is not wrong to worry. For some people, it’s the driving force that keeps them on top of their crazy life. It’s the grounding factor that keeps people from making reckless decisions. We shouldn’t be angry with ourselves for worrying because it is an action that makes sense in a lot of situations, and a coping mechanism for handling the variables of living.

As with most things, the issue is in how much we engage with it. If we can’t get out of bed, if it takes up most of our thoughts, that’s when our concern becomes concerning. If it’s lowering our IQ, that’s a problem. Yet, with the financial aspect, how can we get out of it?

That’s the issue right there. We shouldn’t see worry as something to “get out of”. We are the things that worry. It is our choice. Even though habits may take our will out of the equation, we can take that will back, slowly but surely. There is a line between using our worry to make our lives more productive and prepared versus letting it overwhelm us. That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves 1. what we can control and 2. what we cannot.

If we can control it, we do our best. Then step two is the difficult part, we try to let it go. We let it be. Maybe the world will fall apart. Maybe the worst will happen. Take that outcome in mind, truly face it: if it happens, life will still go on. Or it won’t, and there’s nothing we can do about that either.

Those who worry are used to the face of their fears. We know their enemy. We’ve imagined its face a thousand times and then some. If something happens we weren’t expecting, we necessarily never would have been able to expect it. If the worst happens, that’s not the end, because as long as we are alive, we can take steps to make things better. It will be different, but it can still always be better, and that’s something to cling to.

Your worry is not your enemy. You are in control of what you can control, and everything else is irrelevant to your headspace. Things will turn out. They may not turn out how you want, but they will always turn out some way, and you are more ready than you know if you’re considering it in the first place.

long term and short term, the termites

Here’s a secret: a majority of things take time. The best things are part of that number. We aren’t who we are because of single events. Most everything has a lead-up, a series and a habit of thinking and acting. Whether it’s crime and abuse or generosity and charity, human behaviors don’t come out of the blue.

That’s why one of the most challenging parts of life is something we overlook: the ordinary days. We see celebrities on TV shows and think it’s a one time work of chance that throws the spotlight on them. However, working hard isn’t something you can decide to do once. Working hard is a pattern you develop every day. Ordinary days are the easiest to overlook, but they are the meat of our life. Our worst days and happiest days are nothing compared to the sheer power of numerosity of our ‘regular’ days. That’s why mindfulness, meditation, and religions tend to encourage people to use their day to the best of their potential.

And yet, our mortality and own sanity must be considered. The long game isn’t the only thing that matters. If we’re consistently miserable, how awful a thing in the space of our limited life! We should be able to find a way to balance enjoying the moment with working towards the future.

A good rule of thumb is to be prepared for the future, have an rough roadmap of how you’re getting to your long term goals, but once you get those bits set up, enjoy your day. More practically, this means making a budget, sticking to the budget, setting aside money for an emergency fund, and all that boring stuff we know we should do but don’t. However, once you get that bit of ‘adulting’ out of the way, go make kraft mac and cheese if you want. Have a picnic in your living room. Watch a good show that makes you happy. Things take time. It’s frustrating to be on the path but not where you want to be. However, where we are can be something special, if we let it. If things take time, enjoy the time.

questions of the Self, a most annoying plague

Books and movies tend to portray “the Self” as something you find after a life struggle or going on a trip to a foreign country. In our everyday life, however, the more we look for ourselves, it seems the more we lose it. When we try to address and find this thing that seems to have consciousness, we miss it.  The self is dynamic and we can find ourselves cut up into so many parts, it’s hard to see the overall vision. Are you the person who wakes up late? Are you the person that takes short showers? Are you fashionable? Kind? All the little details of who you are changing all the time, and so who is the person underneath it all? Are you the voice reflecting on yourself? If so, who is the self you are looking at?

Philosophers, neuroscientists, biologists, poets with large egos, plenty of people have tried to tackle the question of consciousness. It is perhaps one of the greatest mysteries in the universe, and we can only consider its mysteriousness because of it Itself. Where we are right now, we don’t understand what it is exactly or how it works. While it would be comforting to know, we don’t have to understand it to live our lives. If it is something that captures you, heart and soul, you can research into it, try and understand it. We probably won’t find a perfect model of it.

I realize that’s not a satisfactory answer because it’s not a hard and fast explanation or even a definition. However, it’s not stopped you from reading this, understanding this, and impacting your life. You are conscious, whether or not you understand it. Consciousness may be a process, and we can’t see that process clearly because we are it. In a similar way, we may be incapable of seeing and understanding ourselves. When we introspect, we are automatically splitting ourselves off to look at it, and that splitting off is necessarily limiting what we are looking at.

As to say, the “Self” that people often look for isn’t some distinct character who likes A, does B, and has traits C, D, and E. We know we are splitting ourselves up with possible actions we could be taking, and that partitioning is driving us to doubt who we are. However, we will always be our Self. Your Self is you, you’ve never lost it in the first place. If we take one path or another, those two eventual Selves would likely be different. But who are we to know that? We can’t see the bird’s eye view of our life. We’re on the ground, subjective and ignorant of so many things– it is who we are, and those limitations make us who we are.

More often than not, what we are looking for is confidence. We never make the “right” decisions, we can only make the decision we think is best. Even when we feel like we are being pulled by so many options, we have faced every single choice before and gone with it. Choices are inevitable, and if we mess up, we can choose to try and fix it. Maybe your Self yesterday loved coffee, and today your Self loves tea, but you were yourself yesterday and you are yourself today.

doing good things: it’s a bore

The question of good and evil is a big one. Most people would like to think of themselves as “okay”. Maybe not terrifically good, but at least not terrifically bad. Sure, people make mistakes and are cruel from time to time, but we each like to believe that our good mostly outweighs the bad. Religions often emphasize and try to encourage people to be moral, with greater or lesser success. Even people that consider themselves horrible people still tend to count some of their actions as beneficial to the whole good, and even people that consider themselves ultimately saints know in their hearts that they’re imperfect.

Adding onto this difficulty, there are questions of circumstance. If someone is struggling to survive, surely it isn’t necessary for them to help others since they are exerting so much effort in other worthwhile things? But also, we tend to overestimate how busy we are to make ourselves feel less guilty for not doing more. Helping the poor. Giving comfort to those in need. Being kind and compassionate when there is no external motivating factor like the desire to be seen as socially good.

Some argue that all humans are good, just get pushed down the wrong path by a terrible situation. Some others argue all humans are evil, and we have to fight our instincts to accomplish something good. Still, others feel that a binary of right and wrong is too simple and we should act with the understanding that circumstances are almost always morally ambiguous.

We might not know, and there will almost certainly be disagreement about the particulars, yet regardless we must realize that there is a drive, either internally or externally to do good things from somewhere. If there wasn’t, how would our species have survived this long? What about all of the cooperative relationships and groups that operate every day? Humans can be altruistic, at least to a limited degree. The problem with the argument is that there are so many options and opinions flying around that it becomes easy to justify doing nothing, even when we can do far more. It’s easy to feel like Injustice is so widespread that an individual can do nothing to help. But this isn’t the case. Even if an action is nominal, a good act can still impact someone else’s life for the better. There’s the hope that individuals will all do little things on their own and together that kindness and compassion will make the difference on the whole. However, it’s difficult to feel fulfilled as a tiny dot on a giant balance. Furthermore, even the most basic actions can have many results; who decides the overall absolute value of “goodness”?

Discussions of morality make people uncomfortable because it is almost always associated with shame. We feel like we haven’t done enough. Frankly, we probably haven’t, and if we are honest with ourselves, we know that our behaviors likely won’t shift in the future either.

So what’s to be done? In our hearts, we know what we have to do, and it’s boring.

The way for most humans to realistically enact change isn’t exciting. Not everyone can or should join the Peace Corps or start a charitable nonprofit. What impacts people is donating to charities who have actual pragmatic goals and ways to achieve them. What impacts people is joining a local club that does blood drives. Working at a soup kitchen. Being around people who are in need is uncomfortable, and we don’t want to deal with the realization that they are human as us. You don’t have to give up everything in your life, you just have to give consistently and practically. It’s dull. It won’t make you feel like a saint, it will more likely make you annoyed because you have yet another commitment to tack on to a large pile. It matters anyway. We can always do something good for others, our situation just dictates what kind of good we are capable of giving. We should do what we can, and what that means will probably change over time. Doing what we can where we can is a much better option, however, than being paralyzed with shame that helps no one.

are you more of a Rothko or a Magritte?

When we think of art, we tend to think of something visual. A blue sailboat on a blue sea under a blue sky. Sometimes we may think of abstract sculptures, but even with those pieces, there is a tendency to think of them as their shape only. Part of what makes art fascinating, however, is even our traditional sense of what ‘art’ includes so much more. The texture of paint, brushstrokes, all add a three-dimensional aspect. The materials used can change our feelings towards the same object. The smells of paint or old books add to our understanding of a piece. Those who argue cooking is an art form can incorporate taste as part of their work. When we understand art, we understand it through any means of sensations, even if it’s not an overtly conscious choice.

Our understanding of ourselves is both limited in that we can’t see ourselves from the perspective of everything else we lay judgment on, and unlimited in that we are the only human that knows what it’s like to be us. Sometimes we need to ask if we’re seeing ourselves with a single sense. If art that is lifeless shouldn’t be boiled down to looks alone, then why do we have the desire to do the same to something that is living? We have to approach our understanding of ourselves like we do a work we see in the museum. What section are we in? What time? What author? Without context, how can hope to understand why we are the way we are?

Explanations aren’t justifications. Understanding how someone, for example, became an abuser or a killer doesn’t make what they did right. Knowing how you developed a problem doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to solve it. Even if you understand how a work of abstract art was meaningful for the time, you don’t have to like it. However, when we put things into context, it can make us think a little more clearly, and by thinking clearly we can figure out where and how to fix the situation. Say you look at yourself like a work of art and still don’t like what’s going on. That’s okay. We can improve. Even as we have our eye on the future, we can still realize that there is something in each of us to be grateful for. We can be both improving and appreciative of our strengths. Like art, sometimes things aren’t clear or even good, but they can have value anyways.

turns out, you need other people, and that’s how it’s supposed to be

Any expert is a proxy that will simplify the books and knowledge you don’t want to spend the time learning about. Theoretically, you could become the foremost expert on North Eastern moss, but we trust the sites on Google that break it down more effectively into what we need to know. Trust is involved for so many of our actions because we are limited individuals. There is only so much time in the day, and only so much effort and focus we can exert. When we find ourselves at a loss, we ask. Or rather, we should ask.

Even though we are social creatures that thrive and require social connections, we also have a deep desire to be independent. We want to be able to exist without our social matrix. “Surviving in the Wilderness” videos get so many views because we want to know that we could do it. We want to know that we aren’t dependent on others, that we have value in and of ourselves. The issue with that line of thought is that almost all of our values matter in relation to other people. We want to be individuals, almost in spite of our relation to a network, but that in itself creates a relationship. We value other people, even though we may claim that other’s opinions don’t matter.

So, what do we do? Give up any semblance of individuality and commit to the needs of the whole without complaint?

Absolutely not. We need other people, but that doesn’t destroy the value of the individual. Some differences, some values should not be thrown away just because the majority disagrees. It is good and important that we want to be independent. By interacting with the group and offering up the differences we have, we both gain value as an individual and support the whole. Sometimes we don’t realize how we have value, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Simply by living and experiencing things, we can offer different perspectives, different natural abilities,  and even just being there to listen to others can do incredible good.

We can do great things as individuals but pretending like we don’t need other people will only make us miserable. So ask others when you don’t know what to do. If no one knows, then take your best guess and maybe you’ll be able to help someone else that falls into the same situation.

End of hiatus and some comments on our natural human frustrations

It’s been a while, and the coming months will likely be trying, but the importance of trying cannot be understated. In both facing our fears and putting forth our best efforts, we should care. Caring is one of the most difficult things we can do, and it gets harder the more things we experience. The more we know, the more we realize how our compassion and vulnerability can be used against us, or sometimes worse, be ignored altogether.

In many ways, the story of human life is one that longs for connection and becomes frustrated in the journey again and again. Babies cry, and almost immediately we begin training them to shut up. It’s necessary. We have to be individuals that are self-supporting, but we can’t exist too self-supporting or else we become miserable and alone. If we are too dependent, on the other hand, we become aware of the burden of our existence on others. We are each like parts on a bike; the grimy handlebars wish to be the free-wheeling tires, the exhausted tires long to be the lofty seat, the squashed seat desires the control of the handlebars and the spokes just pray they will be able to hold everything together.

When we are unhappy, it can infect everything. A neutral or happy past experience can be twisted into a negative narrative. Being sad gives us this hungry drive to make everything else in our life fit that mood, but it can’t, not completely. No matter how insatiably wretched we may feel, we haven’t spent every waking moment from the womb feeling that way.  We’re human. We have complex emotion, often more complex than we want. Caring, putting ourselves out there, all of these things are so important and can become staggeringly difficult. Yet, just as we realize how dismal we are in the moment, we can trust in our own fickle nature. We will find beautiful things we enjoy, whether we are looking for them or not. Things hurt. Let yourself be angry, let yourself be sad, but also don’t forget to let yourself be happy too.

Picking the right path

It’s hard to stay committed to our goals. It’s easier to not care, to be selfish, to take the easy way out and give an excuse. We promise ourselves we won’t give in to our temptations, but we do. Over and over again, we have to recommit ourselves, and try to be better.

No one goes through this life without challenges. Everyone has a vice, and everyone has let that vice win themselves over more than they want it to. Sometimes it’s pushing people away, sometimes it’s giving too much of yourself, sometimes it’s a drug, sometimes it’s a person, sometimes its an illness, but everyone has something that they need to overcome. Our troubles may be unique to us in kind, but they are never unique to us by nature. We are both special and not at all special.

You are a special individual because you’ve gone through specific circumstances and were born the way you were. However, as strange as it may sound, we can also take comfort in the fact that we aren’t special at all. Someone has felt your kind of pain. Even if they haven’t jumped over the same hurdle, they know how you feel. Sure, you may be broken, but everyone else is too, and we’re trying our best to get put back together. So it matters that you try and be better than who you were yesterday, but if you need to recommit yourself to your goals, that’s okay. Recommit yourself every day to live the life you want to live.

risks and ladders

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t done what you want yet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wreck right now. It doesn’t matter, because it’s not the end. Every moment doesn’t feel like a new chance, but it is. Most of the time, the bars and limits we have are those we put on ourselves. If you want to do something more, you can achieve that.

It’s easy to think that couldn’t be the case. We think that if we want to go see a new movie in theaters, we have to go with friends. You don’t, you could go yourself. We think we can’t switch careers, because we wouldn’t even know where to start. Fine, you don’t know where to start, but knowing that means your first step is finding out what the steps are. We think that if we don’t stay or become a certain way, we’ll be alone forever. Surely, there is an importance to listening to what others have to say and heeding their advice, but at the end of the day, there is a line between listening to others and letting them rule your life.

Everything to this point matters in that it has built you up into who you are right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to play your hand out exactly like it’s expected. We are in a processing of growing, and its going to take a while to get to where we want to go. It’s terrifying to abruptly change, and there are many things that seem way beyond us– and that’s okay! Changing overnight is a difficult and natural thing. What is good is teaching yourself, step by step, to creep towards those goals of yours, pushing what’s comfortable for you. This moment is a chance. This moment too. If you don’t take it now, seriously ask yourself if you ever will.