I didn’t learn about affirmations until I was grown. The first thing I thought of was this scene from the 2006 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film ATL. This scene still makes me laugh til this day.
Brooklyn : Why after every sentence you call me “shawty”? “Yo shawty… shawty.” I’m taller than you! Rashad : Okay, well, let me ask you this then: in New York City then why ya’ll gotta say “yo, son” after every sentence? I’m not your kid, I’m not your child, why I gotta be your son? Teddy : Money… Rashad : B… Brooklyn : I call you “sun,” ’cause you shine like one. Ya’ feel me? Rashad : That was real sentimental. Thanks.
Rashad’s reaction to Brooklyn’s facetious affirmation is the same I had to the thought of “saying nice things to myself”. I laughed until I learned what affirmations really do. Similar to my learning around music, affirmations have roots in neuroscience. Through repetition of affirming statements, the brain can form new neural pathways, which create physical connections to these repeated thoughts.
I think about the ways I was verbally shown love as a child. Often it was through roasting or joking. There was always a thin line there. I also think about how I was socialized to respond to compliments. A lot of good examples can be found in the Spider-Man meme below.
Responses to compliments were expected to be dismissive and affirmative of the giver’s accomplishments. I’m still diligently working on getting comfortable with receiving compliments and praise. Practicing self affirmations is helping tremendously in this work. This practice also helps in my ability to easily point out when I’m receiving words that could be covert verbal abuse.
It would be foolish if I didn’t also mention generational trauma stemming from White supremacy as a factor to these cultural exchanges and customs. I still don’t have a firm list of affirmations even after all these years but I am more knowledgable about their crucial affect on my mental health. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a firm list but I do know I’ll always go back to “I call you ‘sun’ because you shine like one”.
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