This year I resolve to think positively, even if I suck at it
Anyone remember that children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Multiply that by 365, and you get 2010. In fact, most of last year was so awful that I kind of want to forget it ever happened.
Well, hell. Already I’ve started this post all wrong. See, my New Year’s resolution is to limit negative thinking, which is something I do extremely well. I also excel in areas of guilt, self-loathing, resentment, and fear. You know–all the good, happy, healthy stuff.
Last year, I almost lost myself in a labyrinth of hate, and it was all directed inward. If I ever caught anyone saying the horrible things that I say to myself every day–you’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re stupid, you’re lazy, you’re selfish, you’re talentless, you’re a terrible daughter/partner/friend/writer/groomer, I-hate-you-I-hate-you-I-hate-you-I-hate-you–I would be absolutely appalled.
The truth is, no one treats me as poorly as I treat myself. And that has to change, here and now. No excuses.
During a recent dinner party, my friends Danna and Lindsay discussed the Law of Attraction, which is essentially a theory that “like attracts like.” Lindsay explains it as such: “Whatever you focus your energy and attention towards, you will attract into your life – even if that is something you don’t want. So, if I spend time thinking about how cranky a certain job makes me feel, I’m going to continue to feel like a curmudgeon and continue to have a crappy job. But if I think about how wonderful life is (or can be), then more good will come my way.”
I definitely need to put this philosophy to practice, because let’s face it, negative thinking didn’t get me very far last year.
I’ve always been fairy skeptical (and–to be perfectly honest–more than a bit judgmental) about any sort of idea that is the least bit spiritual. I tend to mock “kooky” new-age theories and anything that involves self-affirmation or self-love of any kind. (My girlfriend-the-therapist has plenty of speculations regarding this attitude, none of which I care to get into here.) One afternoon while I was vacuuming last summer, I happened to catch a reflection of myself in the bedroom mirror, and what I saw disgusted me so much that I began to rake my fingernails across my arms, chest, neck, and face. You’re repulsive, I told myself. Inside and out, you sicken me.
Later that evening, when I admitted to Jenn what I’d done, she asked if I’d consider posting “notes of positive reenforcement” on the bathroom mirror. “Come on, Vic,” she said. “Just write, ‘I love myself’ on an index card, tape it to the mirror, read it, and repeat it aloud every time you go into the bathroom.” “I can’t do that,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Why not?” she demanded. “Because it seems cheesy and self-indulgent,” I said. “It’s all touchy feely and sounds like something I’d read about in a self-help book that’s written by lesbians who worship the moon goddess and spell ‘woman’ with a y.” “The depth of your self-hatred truly astounds me,” she replied, shaking her head.
Five months later, I’m able to look back on that conversation with an objective eye. I can certainly understand Jenn’s frustration with me, but I also know why I so adamantly rejected her idea. For someone who thinks so little of herself, repeating “I love myself” every time she looks in a mirror is unthinkable. Last summer, my poor body image–coupled with my “failure” at my former job–left little room in my brain for any thoughts besides ones of self-loathing. Enrolling in grooming school is probably one of the healthiest decisions I’ve made in recent years, because the positive feedback that I receive each day from my classmates and instructors has slowly helped re-establish my self-confidence. For the first time in more than a year and a half, I feel excited about my future.
My friends Liz and Dave (whose dog Sadie we happen to be watching this weekend) recently quit their jobs to go into business for themselves. Liz opened a private therapy practice in Andover and Cambridge, and Dave is in acupuncture school. Liz recently completed a year-long course in aromatherapy, which she plans to incorporate into her practice, and Dave–an avid believer of energy work–has practiced meditation, qi gong, Chinese medicine, shamanic healing techniques, reiki, crystal healing, and heart-mind integration since 2002. Liz and Dave are also both certified reike practitioners.
While browsing through their library during a recent visit to their house, I noticed a collection of index cards taped to the wall above Liz’s desk. “I will support myself through my private practice,” one said. “I will supplement my income with aromatherapy and reike,” said another. “I will save money for our honeymoon.” “I will have a successful practice.” “I am happy.”
Liz’s wall was not so different from what Jenn suggested earlier this summer, but for whatever reason, seeing those affirmations written by someone else made the idea seem… not so weird.
In the upcoming weeks, Jenn and I plan to create a wall similar to Liz’s. And my first index card will say, “I will learn to love myself.”