Self-help mantras and positive affirmations are thronging social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. These quotes have really caught my attention lately. Yes, they are inspiring and they do make me feel great about myself sometimes. Self-help is also a multi-million-dollar industry. Let me also say I am talking about quotes pertaining to self-help here and not quotes from great leaders and motivators. So, what are self-help mantras? Here are some examples:
“I have the knowledge to make smart decisions for myself.”
“I have all that I need to make today a great day.”
“I am, and always will be, enough.”
These are some great positive self-affirmations. At first glance, it is difficult to see anything wrong with it. Now, I would like you to picture a client of mine who experiences low self-esteem at the workplace and struggles to find his voice in meetings. If he is asked to say “I am, and always will be enough” every day, it will contradict his inner feelings and may result in him feeling worse. Research shows that for people like my client, it is more rewarding when their negative feelings are brought out with the help of a broader intervention than overly positive and unreasonable affirmations that they do not relate to.
Social media platforms force us to think positively but the reality is that it does not really lead to happiness. When we fail at something, these beliefs on positive affirmations contradicting the story that we build in our head can cause real harm. Our understanding of what makes us happy can be skewed sometimes. If I were to choose between two events – one a vacation in Mexico and one volunteering to coach and guide someone who needs me, whom I have never met in my life and lives in another continent, I definitely would choose the vacation and I would think that would make me happy. The truth is these two events happened in my life and I am pleasantly surprised that the volunteer session I did with this individual brought me a sense of ecstasy that I have never experienced before. The fact that she sat in a house with no walls talking about women empowerment gave me goosebumps.
Paradoxically, an individual who has high self-esteem can gain a lot of benefits from these self-help affirmations to enhance his career and life in general. Having good family relationships, close friends, a satisfactory job are some of the factors that affect an individual’s self-esteem. It is important to understand that self-esteem cannot be based purely on a simple self-affirmation every day in front of the mirror. If you have low self-esteem and your confidence is affecting your productivity, promotion, and climbing the ladder of success, it is imperative that you get help and not resort to self-affirmations that may be doing more harm than good.
One piece of advice that has not gone to waste for me is that we are in control of our thoughts and actions. It is not a surprise that your thoughts and actions are related. If your positive self-affirmations are contradicting your beliefs and actions, you must not sweep it under the rug. Using words that contradict what you are truly feeling will not change things in your life. I strongly recommend to get help, invest in yourself. We invest in clothes, cars, and houses but hesitate to invest in our development. You must be your first priority not what you own. Saying “things are fine” multiple times, does not make it fine. You must confront your issues for it to actually be fine one day.
Hamna Siddique is a coach specializing in career, business, and leadership coaching.
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