Affirmations are positive thoughts and self confidence boosting coping mechanisms. In the second half of the 20th century many a motivational speaker made his buck using this technique. Spiritual gurus and wellness practitioners also preached about affirmations.
I am a good blogger
People want to read my blog
I will motivate people
Sorry for the tasteless examples, but this is how positive affirmations look like. If you were a pre teen in the 90s you would remember the episode of the power puff girls where Buttercup starts to think she’s a good crime fighter because of her green blanket which she uses to practice her affirmations – end of the episode showed she was a good crime fighter with or without the affirmations.
Now let’s not get into a debate on whether affirmations are real or have any real effect on us. This post is about something grey called Negative Affirmations. What does it mean?
Negative affirmation isn’t really a word – atleast not yet. We haven’t recognized and labelled it as we so love to do these days, but all of us have seen, experienced and practiced this. The simplest and most common example of this is I told you so.
I told you so
What is this sadistic line that we love so much? Most of us are waiting for our turn to say I told you so. We relish it, the feel of rubbing it in. Why do we do this?
Let’s take a simple example to visualize it. When I got back from the hospital after I was sick for a couple of days, I wanted to go straight up to my room. But my aunt wanted me sit in the living room for a while and then go up. I didn’t listen to her and went up. Naturally I was a little exhausted and started coughing vigorously. Her first reaction – I told you so. I couldn’t react, I knew I was wrong but I couldn’t say anything. I just lay on the bed breathing deeply.
Would she leave it at that? Noooo. She kept saying it again and again you should’ve stayed down, I told you you should’ve. See what happened.
I didn’t know what to say. Actually I didn’t say anything. Did she want me to say sorry? Did she just want to hear me say yes you were right?
It happens many times in our lives, when someone makes a mistake, we hold no restraint in letting them know they’ve made a mistake. In cases like our example the mistake cannot be undone, I couldn’t go down and sit in the living room to please her could I?
Her constant harping of my mistake doesn’t help make the situation any better, the only thing it does is make me feel worse. Is that what she wanted?
Many times when people do this – pull the I told you so for too long, I ask them, what are you trying to do? Make me feel worse for longer? Their response is: no but if I don’t say it you will repeat the mistakes. It’s more of a rationalization on their part – they have no way of knowing I will repeat the mistake.
Long back I had read in a Paulo Coelho book that our words are generally meant to convince ourselves more than it is to convince others. So in I told you so perhaps the Negative Affirm-er is trying to convince himself that he has it in him to know or do the right thing?
And who are these people who say I told you so? The ones that can’t actually get their word out in the first place and hence wait to say I told you so? OK maybe that’s a little harsh but the point is, Negative Affirmations – saying I told you so, or harping about the mistakes that can’t be undone are completely unnecessary and the people who do that you are actually trying to prove to themselves that their worth something and doesn’t really have to do much with you.
There’s no need to harbor any prejudice, they are not sadists who want to point out your mistakes. They’re just trying to get better, strangely using Negative Affirmations on you.
Its sad, talk to them about this.