Positive Thinking Minus The ‘Roids

I spend a lot of time helping people who are stuck.

Which is awesome.

Because being stuck blows. And seeing people get unstuck rocks my world.

Most of the faboo taters that hang out with me are struggling with some kind of suck. So they want to unsuck things and get on with the gorgeous already.

In the course of talking about what’s up and where they’re at, it’s pretty normal for someone to rattle off a list of stuff they’ve tried that didn’t work.

And I hear about people using affirmations a lot. And not really getting anywhere with them.

Now I’m not a big affirmation-ey guy myself.

It’s not that I think positive thinking sucks. Because I don’t. Not even a little.

It’s just that I think there are some glitches in the way the whole affirmation thing is usually pitched. Some structural problems that can be kind of sticky.

And since I keep bumping into people that are ending up with so-not-what-they-wanted results after using affirmations, I figured it makes sense to rap about this for a second.

Ever-expanding piles of suck

Here’s how I usually see this shake out.

Someone’s stuck.

So they pick some kind of affirmation that should help with their stuck.

At least in theory.

They rock this affirmation. And nothing really changes.

Now they’re discouraged. Because they still have their original pile of suck.

And now that pile has gotten even bigger because the affirmation totally didn’t help.

Which they usually translate as I’m a big huge horrible awful failure. Or My stuck is so bad that nothing will ever help me and now I’m really screwed.

Two crazy important points

Before I get into the why-affirmations-sometimes-flop-bigtime thing, I just need to set a couple of things straight.

You do not suck.

Not even a little.

And you’re not screwed. Your stuck isn’t forever.

I promise.

Not getting anywhere with affirmations doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

Lots of people hit a wall with this stuff. Because of that glitch-ey bit I mentioned earlier.

(And, if it helps, affirmations have never worked for me. Not even a little. I actually find most of them pretty annoying.)

Holy chasm Batman!

The reason affirmations fall flat for a metric megaton of people is because there’s something totally off about the way they’re usually presented.

Here’s the problem.

Most affirmations have big ideas in them. Really reeeeeeally big ideas.

They’re not just positive.

They’re uber positive.

They’re positive x 100. Or 1,000. Or 1,000,000. Or whatever.

They’re so positive that they start to sound more like make believe than anything else.

So if you’re struggling with money stuff, chances are some book filled with affirmation-ey stuff will authoritatively suggest you spin something that sounds like this:

I am wealthy and prosperous. I have everything I need. I live a life of richness.

And you’re supposed to say it like you really believe it. With conviction. You know, put some feeling into it.

Meanwhile you’re having a hell of a time paying the rent. And keeping the lights on. And eating anything other than ramen noodles.

But somehow you’re supposed to say this I am wealthy thing with a straight face.

Uh, yeah.

The problem is that there’s a huge and hard and totally unrealistic expectation here.

That you can somehow jump over the gigunda gap between where you are and what the affirmation says.


Because, seriously, the last thing you feel like doing when you’re stuck and funked out is to wrangle what little energy you have in hopes of making it across some insanely huge gap.

A gap that would basically require superpowers to get over anyway.

And, for real, if you had those you would have already thrown on your cape and your oh-so-fashionable mask and blasted away the suck.

Giving it the ol’ college try

But you’re feeling super stuck. And you don’t want to be stuck. And everyone raves about how hawt affirmations are. So you give it a shot.

You say this thing a hundred times a day.

And you write it on a bazillion Post-It notes.

And stick them to your fridge. And on your bathroom mirror. And all over the dashboard of your car.

You go to sleep at night chanting this thing like a mantra.

And nothing changes.

And not only does nothing change, there’s also this subtle ack that pops you in the gut when you’re looking in the mirror telling yourself how wealthy you are and how rich your life is and how fabulous things are.

You know why the ack’s there?

Because of that gap.

Positive thinking ≠ bullshitting yourself

There’s a big difference between thinking positively and bullshitting yourself.

It’s really, really hard to actually bullshit yourself deep down.

You’re smart. You’re perceptive. You’re right there in the middle of a situation that sucks.

So if you’re crossing your fingers that your payment makes it to the electric company before you end up sitting in the dark, it’s pretty hard to get behind the idea that you’re wealthy and that your life is filled with big piles of monies.

When you use an affirmation that’s got some big crazy gap in it, your inner bullshit detector goes off in a heartbeat.

And when the alarm sounds, you have two choices:

You can push against the alarm-ey beepbeepbeep and hope you can ignore it.

Or you get that it’s going off because of a way-too-big gap.

So you see where you are. And you see where the affirmation says you are. And you see how far apart those two things actually are. And you feel completely craptastic.

One option amps up the resistance. The other leaves you soaked in suck.

Not so hawt, huh?

And probably not what you were shooting for when you figured you’d take this affirmation thing for a spin.

Close the gap (and skip the ‘roids)

If you dig the idea of affirmations, even if they haven’t turned out so hot yet, tossing them out altogether doesn’t make sense.

Switching up all the inner chatter-ey stuff and the stories you tell yourself can be crazy helpful.

But if you get stuck in the gaps – which is totally normal and totally understandable – then close the gap a little.

Forget all the positivity-on-steroids-foray-into-fantasy kind of affirmations.

Come up with something that works for you. Something that doesn’t feel like it’s a thousand miles away from where you’re at right now.

And know that it’s totally ok to acknowledge where you’re at. And all the hard that’s there.

It’s actually more than ok. It can be seriously helpful. Because running from the hard just creates more hard.

And since trying to spin the I’m-wealthy-and-swimming-in-cash thing when you’ve got money stuck will just cause your bullshit detector to squeal, maybe something like this feels better:

Things are tight right now. But I’m smart. And I’ll figure out a way to turn this around.

Or how about:

I’m not making the money I want to make yet. But I’m totally open to ways that could happen.

Or whatever works and feels right and isn’t stretched past the point of being helpful.

Rock the mic

You know where you’re at. You know where you want to be. And you know what feels too gap-ey for you.

And you’re way more qualified than any book or website or expert-ey type when it comes to cooking up affirmations that work.

So if you want to rock this affirmation thing, try spinning your own.

The formula is pretty simple.

Acknowledge where you’re at. Leave room for stuff to shift. Avoid getting eaten by trigger-ey gap-ey gaps. And keep tweaking as you go.

No superpowers, capes or oh-so-fashionable masks required.

Dig this?

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20 Responses to Positive Thinking Minus The ‘Roids
  1. Julia
    April 1, 2010 | 3:31 pm

    Niiiice! Yup, the inner bullshit detector is always on the alert! I love your writing!
    .-= Julia´s last blog ..Unexpected =-.

  2. Fabeku
    April 1, 2010 | 3:41 pm

    @Julia – I’m with you. My detector is set to super keen most of the time.

  3. missy hooton
    April 1, 2010 | 3:51 pm

    No wonder I was doomed to fail… thank you for such good sense! I’m a tweaking!!

  4. Fabeku
    April 1, 2010 | 3:55 pm

    @Missy – I think that affirmations-on-steroids stuff just sets people up to fail. Because it’s so hard to sustain. Which is kind of the whole point with affirmations. So I say tweak away!

  5. Nathalie Lussier
    April 1, 2010 | 4:12 pm

    Yessss! There’s a book called “Afformations” that’s just awesome about this. It really gets it! It basically gets you to say things like “Why am I so easy to please?” or “Why is it so easy for me to make lots of money?” Because then your subconscious goes to work answering the question.

    Then if you’re answering the question, maybe you need to believe in the statement. At least a little? 🙂
    .-= Nathalie Lussier´s last blog ..Don’t Have a Garden? Try Shared Earth. =-.

  6. Megan
    April 1, 2010 | 4:12 pm

    This is a great article – and you are totally right about that gap thing. I like your advice about acknowledging where we are. I’ve also heard it taught to add something like, “I’m in the process of…” into it to help eliminate the believability gap.

    So, I guess you’d do “Things are tight right now, but I’m open to new opportunities and possibilities and things are in the process of changing.”

    I’m like you, I don’t really use affirmations a lot – I take more of an “internal positivity” stance. A lot of my comfort comes from knowing no matter how big the suck is right now the suck has never, ever, won out in the past – so it’s sure to pass by this time too.

    .-= Megan´s last blog ..An Inspiring Thought =-.

  7. Leila
    April 1, 2010 | 6:08 pm

    Yes yes yes.
    My experience and belief is that the body, even our energy body can simultaenously (crap wish I could spell)hold contradictory positions at the same time. Like…I deserve love and wealth and happiness….Yeah. Duhhh. Of course I do – says the logical brain. I know thatttt. But the other parts of me which live on, little girl Leila, may be in much conflict about this…I’m too fragile/f****ed up/traumatised/not good enough/my parents couldnt so how can I? and so on and on and onnnn.
    So I can only EVER get to the stage of believing in anything which has the feel of a positive affirmation if I allow myself some pretty uncomfortable time to acknowledging and defining the painful bits. Then maybe, hoepfully, more and more, the next stage can kick in. Where a little calm, ease and divine unsticking might occur.
    Loving your posts Fabeku. Your energy and zing and grounded vibrancy just bounce off the page.
    .-= Leila @SunflowerLeila´s last blog ..Stuck? Anxious? Frustrated? Are you tired of constantly striving to achieve more? =-.

  8. Jess
    April 1, 2010 | 7:00 pm

    I absolutely agree. And loved reading this. 🙂

  9. Kerry
    April 1, 2010 | 7:27 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this. I liked this advice: ‘Acknowledge where you’re at. Leave room for stuff to shift. Avoid getting eaten by trigger-ey gap-ey gaps. And keep tweaking as you go.’

    It reminded me of a quote from ‘the biology of belief’ by Bruce Lipton:

    ‘If the desires of the conscious mind conflict with the programs of the subconscious mind, which “mind” do you think will win out?

    You can repeat the positive affirmation that you are lovable over and over or that your cancer tumour will shrink.

    But if, as a child, you heard over and over that you are worthless and sickly, those messages programmed into your subconscious mind will undermine your best conscious efforts to change your life’

  10. Fabeku
    April 1, 2010 | 7:36 pm

    @Nathalie – I dig the idea of turning it around into a question and letting out inner bits cook on that. What a cool approach!

    @Megan – Ooh, I like that in the process of bit. It lets us be real about where we are and also to look forward to stuff shifting. I’m also totally with you about the suck never really winning out at the end. Holding to that has been really helpful for me.

    @Leila – I think you’re right about the contradictory thing. I’ve been thinking about that a lot too. It’s on my List of Stuff to Blog About list. Because it’s important. And hardhardhard when it happens.

    The acknowledging part can be pretty essential, can’t it? I don’t think not acknowledging stuff works in the long run anyway. The energy we spend pushing it away just seems to feed the suck.

    And thanks for your kindness. The phrase grounded vibrancy is awesome. And appreciated.

    @Jess – Thanks. Glad you dug it.

    @Kerry – Another good point about the conflict-ey contradictory stuff that comes up. And the undermining suck that can happen. Ergh. Not fun at all.

    I love all the smartness that you guys are spinning here. Lovelovelove it!

  11. Natalie Christie
    April 2, 2010 | 12:48 am

    This is spot on – the idea isn’t to bridge the sometimes gaping canyon between how we feel and where we wished we were, but to just reach for a place that feels a little better. A tiny nudge in the right direction, the next-best-feeling thought…as a singer it’s a bitch to jump from a really low note to a really high one in a single leap…but sing your way up the scale, one note at a time, and before you know it you’re singing in the stratosphere!!
    .-= Natalie Christie´s last blog ..Why You Must Stop Flirting With Unprepared =-.

  12. Fabeku
    April 2, 2010 | 9:36 am

    @Nat – Yeah, I say eff gaping canyons. When you’re stuck, they’re about the worst thing ever. I like the next-best-feeling thought thing. That’s something I can totally get behind. And your singing-in-the-stratosphere thing? A perfect way to illustrate this.

    That made me think about the gongs I have. They take some time to warm up. You can’t get all the tones you want out of them the first time you gong them. It takes a few minutes. And then all of these overtones and undertones start popping up all over the place. Tiny nudges get you there, like you said.

  13. Tony Teegarden
    April 2, 2010 | 12:42 pm

    I wanted to acknowledge your crazy good post.

    I’m a big believer in Shadow work or as you call it, “acknowledging where you’re at.” Do affirmations have their place? Yes probably so.

    But the problem is you can’t spray perfume on a pig and expect it to be a permanent change or shift. The shit is going to smell, period.

    Many people have varying layers of stuff that requires to be peeled away, exposed and become conscious of so they can dissolve it. Or another way is to have light shed on their “dark parts.” What we resist will persist and until you acknowledge those underlying commitments, give them attention and find the gift in them all the positive talk in the world won’t matter. You’ll default back to your shit.

    There is always a gift in our “stuckness” or in whatever feels like a supposedly a bad situation. By me consciously working towards that understanding everyday it makes falling into those “gaps” a positive thing I learn from rather than a bad thing I avoid. It’s all in our perspective and framing.

    This post is crazy good at exposing the beginning of that process. Great way to peel it all back and start.
    .-= Tony Teegarden´s last blog ..Get Naked With Me (Using The “F” Word) =-.

  14. Randi Buckley
    April 2, 2010 | 12:55 pm

    Hey this is magically brilliant. Like you.

    May I post a link to this in my next newsletter? I’ll send you chocolate….

    With gratitude,

  15. Mark W. "Extra Crispy" Schumann
    April 2, 2010 | 1:22 pm

    When I saw the link to this on Twitter, it prompted my annoyance at the use of the expression “X on steroids!” to mean some kind of super-duper X. Because, duh, supra-medical use of steroids actually makes things weak, unhealthy, and dangerous.


    In that case, your article is right on! No, you don’t want affirmations “on steroids.” They’ll put you into weak, unhealthy, and dangerous places.
    .-= Mark W. “Extra Crispy” Schumann´s last blog ..What’s on your mind? =-.

  16. Naomi Niles
    April 2, 2010 | 2:53 pm

    I love this. You so well put what I’ve always thought about it too. It’s just too hard to get from one place to another that way and you can’t really align with it when it’s so far off and vague.

    The one that always works for me is, “You’ve always managed to make it through tough circumstances and be fine. There’s reason you won’t this time too.”.
    .-= Naomi Niles´s last blog ..Guides for Designers: Coming Soon =-.

  17. Yael Grauer
    April 2, 2010 | 9:49 pm

    Love it. I actually dig some of the eft stuff, too, where you use anti-affirmations while tapping. Kind of takes some of the power out of them. But I have a strange sense of humor.
    .-= Yael Grauer´s last blog ..Embracing the Bitter =-.

  18. Rick Hamrick
    April 4, 2010 | 9:09 am

    I’m a big fan of simple and direct.

    While it doesn’t come close to the richness and entertainment your post offers, here’s what I use in my self-talk when stuck:

    Start where you are.

    It has helped me often enough that there is a sense of expectation which rises as soon as I think this, and the “Start” part is often like flipping a switch. You can’t be stuck once you have started.
    .-= Rick Hamrick´s last blog ..Life, explained (the continuing saga) =-.

  19. Dave
    April 6, 2010 | 12:44 pm

    Hi Fabeku,

    I really enjoyed this post.

    I’ve always kinda liked the idea of affirmations, but yeah–the way they are presented is so often overblown and ungrounded. You lay out a really cool middle way that makes much more sense to me.

    .-= Dave´s last blog ..6 Impossible Things: #3 The Melancholy Piano =-.

  20. Fabeku
    April 9, 2010 | 11:48 am

    @Tony – I think you’re right about closing the gap being the first place to start.

    It’s hard to get to the goodies that may be there if the resistance is screaming and yelling and jumping up and down. And resistance loves gaps.

    I also totally agree about the pigs-and-perfume thing.

    @Randi – You’re sweet. Thank you. And you can totally link it up in your next newsletter.

    @Mark – Right on about the ‘roids. Weak and unhealthy. They also make stuff big and bulky and scary. And big, bulky gaps can be crazy scary for people.

    @Naomi – Yep. You’re so right. Far off + vague = totally unhelpful, at best. And I love how you remind yourself of making it through the hard. I let out a nice happy sigh when I read that.

    @Yael – I’m all about a strange sense of humor. I haven’t looked at EFT stuff too much, but I’ve heard good stuff about it.

    @Rick – I think start where you are is perfect. It’s also a nice way to get over gap-induced ack.

    @Dave – You nailed it. The overblown and ungrounded part is what doesn’t work for me. It feels like that just puts the good stuff way out of reach. Which is a pretty crap thing to deal with when you’re already feeling bleched out.

    Thanks for all of your shared smartness.

    Good schtuff taters!

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