When I was a teenage girl in middle school (yes, I was there at one point, shocking to me even), my self-confidence was equal to that of the number of games the Cleveland Browns have won this year… zero, nothing, nada.
Self-confidence in middle school is about as popular as wanting to take a sex-ed course. But why is this alarming trend so common across the country? Why do we not have more programs to help these girls?
I did not start gaining any self-confidence until about senior year of high school, but a large portion of that was the fact that I have depression and anxiety. My therapist worked with me for years to help me gain skills to make me believe in myself.
After hundreds of methods and many therapy appointments, positive self-affirmation came into the conversation. It’s a rather simple method: you just tell yourself positive things about yourself over and over, multiple times a day, and eventually, BOOM! Self-confidence!
Well, it’s not that easy. Let me explain some more.
It started off with a simple exercise, where I put my arm up to the side and she pushed down on it while I said a phrase that was either true or not. The phrases began with something simple like “My name is Dawn”, but my name is not Dawn, so my arm fell easily. “My name is Kelly”, my arm stayed up.
But then the phrases started getting heavy: “I think I’m pretty”, arm fell, “I think I’m smart”, arm fell, “I love cats”, arm stayed up, “I believe that I am worth living”… my arm fell.
My therapist had me sit back down,” You have no self-confidence, do you?” I shrugged and looked at my hands in my lap. “Why?”
I babbled off the story that I have explained too many times; bullied for years, self-harming, friends dropping like flies, weight gain and loss, and the fact that my mind never stopped. We talked about some anxiety coping techniques, then we talked about the bullying, and then she stopped talking.
She sat back in her chair and looked at her notepad. “Kelly, you’ve been seeing me for about two years now, and yet we’ve made no progress in your confidence. We need to change that. Today you’re going to learn positive self-affirmation.”
She first made me compile a list of things that I didn’t think to be true about myself (being pretty, being smart, being worth it), and then refuted them to me, citing many examples as to prove to me that I’m not any of the things I think I am. She then gave me a list of things to tell myself, positive things.
I am strong, I am intelligent, I am beautiful, I am loved, I am worth living, I am going to make a change in the world, I am going to graduate college, I am confident, everything is always working out for me in the end, I am enough, I am not a burden, I am needed, I am welcome, I am more than I let myself believe, I am me.
I was then told to repeat that to myself three times a day when I was eating. At first, I felt completely stupid. Talking to myself? Isn’t that what gets you thrown into a padded room in a straitjacket? However, I told my boyfriend about it so I was going to be forced to do it because he would not leave me alone until I did it.
So, three times a day, I rattled off the list to myself, often when I was in the car driving to school, on my way to work, and coming home from work. At night, I made myself think positive. If I couldn’t think positive about myself right then, I tried to find the positives in the world- something that is quite hard this day in age.
Slowly, I began to smile more. I began to feel better and better in my own skin. Stress was rolling off of my back like water and my anxiety was suddenly manageable. My teachers took notice, commenting on my new sense of energy and awakened appearance. I was a new me.
With this in mind, why isn’t this taught to girls at the turn of puberty? Why is this not thrown in with that presentation that they give you about your period in the fifth grade? Why is this so unheard of and rare? Don’t we deserve to feel like our best selves?
Positive self-affirmation is a skill that is so simple and easy to do that even the busiest of people can find some time in their day to do it. Consistently telling yourself that you are worth it and enough is something we all owe to ourselves. We all have the necessity to love ourselves and reap the benefits it brings.
This next week, I challenge you to try to add some positive self-affirmation into your life, whether it be when you’re driving, sipping your morning cup of coffee, or showering. Just try it, and see how it changes your life.