Affirmations Suck

May 13th, 2010

On this blog, I have criticized a lot of people and a lot of ideas that people hold sacred.  It’s not my fault that there’s a lot of poop out there and that people believe it.  And, yes, I do get hate mail from time to time.  But the funny thing is that there is one post of mine that generates 90% of my hate mail.

Is it my negative review of Tony Robbins’ book?  Nope. Fans of Tony seem mum, except for one.

Is it my recommendation to not read anything recommended by Oprah?  Nope. (heck, fans of Oprah have been known to like this blog).

Or perhaps it was my knocking Dr. Phil?  Again, no.

The post that most people hate is my post on why affirmations don’t work.

I mean, geez.  For some reason, that post gets people all riled up.  So, I thought perhaps people misunderstood my feelings on affirmations.  I mean last time, I tried to show how in scientific studies affirmations did nothing to help people with low self-esteem feel better.  I suggested that people with low self-esteem get some better friends rather than tell themselves how great they are when they don’t feel that way at all.

Well, today, I’ll make my opinion on affirmations clear.  Here goes:

Affirmations suck.

They blow.

And they are a great way to delay taking real action.

And let me be clear because depending on who you ask (or pay), the meaning of “affirmation” changes.  By “affirmation”, I mean the idea that saying something over and over will make it so and that somehow the universe will provide you with whatever you want based on your positive affirmation (and positive thinking).

In other words, I don’t buy the idea that repeating to yourself how worthy and likable you are will cause you to become worthy and likable.

Seriously, if I told you that repeating every day that you are a famous rock star will make you one, people would laugh at me.  And rightfully so. But that is essentially what “affirmation pushers” tell you.  Strip away all the cosmic mumbo-jumbo associated with affirmations and it boils down to “saying it will make it so”.

Now, if affirmations were the same as psyching yourself out before a big speech or performance, I wouldn’t say a word.  That kind of self-talk is necessary from time to time.  But these affirmation pushers are in the business of telling you that saying you feel good about yourself will make it so.

And that’s bull.  You want to feel better about yourself?  DO something to make yourself feel better about yourself.  That’s right.  TAKE ACTION. If you want to be likeable, then do something to make yourself likeable.

Today, I was forwarded this link to an article that I think made a good point.  It wasn’t talking about affirmations, but I think it applies:

Well, unfortunately, self-esteem and the ability to like yourself only come after you’ve done something that makes you likable. You can’t bullshit yourself. If I think Todd over here is worthless for sitting in his room all day, drinking Pabst and playing video games one-handed because he’s masturbating with the other one, what will I think of myself if I do the same thing?

And that’s the truth.  Doing is better than talking.  And no matter how hard you try, you can’t bullshit yourself.  Some people think lying to yourself is OK.  But you can’t delude yourself for long.  And once you realize how musch you’ve been BS’ing yourself, you can crash hard and end up worse than you were before you started BS therapy. .

Psyching yourself up can help, but it’s only a way to get you going.  Affirmations, though, promise much more than that.  And that’s why I think they suck.  Better to lead people to actions that will help them achieve what they want. That’ll boost their self-esteem,  not giving them some script to read.

An affirmation FAQ based on my comments in my hate mail:
Q: You seem to think other people’s opinions matter more than your own.  Isn’t it your opinion of yourself that is most important and that’s where affirmations come in?

A: No.  Everyone cares to some degree about other people’s opinions.  I’m sorry to have to point out an obvious truth, but I am not in the business of perpetuating cowboy myths.  And people who really don’t care what others think are called sociopaths.  The fact is self-esteem does come from your self, but you don’t come to your opinions of yourself all by your lonesome.  A high opinion of one’s self

Q: Doesn’t your negative view on affirmation mean you’re closed-minded?

A: Not at all.  Just as I do not consider The Flying Spaghetti Monster to be an alternative to the Theory of Evolution, I do not think consider things that make no sense just so I can be considered “open-minded”.

Q: Your view of affirmations clearly shows you don’t believe in God and hate religion. So, why do you hate religion?

A: Affirmations are not found in any major religion I can think of, and, no, I do NOT consider books like “God Wants You to be Rich” to be religious texts.  And I also don’t consider New Age thought (where affirmations come from) to be religious in nature either.

Q: Why do you quote science?  Don’t you know that science cannot explain everything?

A: That’s true.  Science does not explain everything.  But I have respect for the scientific method.  If affirmations and “The Secret” were not presented as science, then no problem.  But you don’t get to talk about how scientific all this crap is and then refuse to submit it for scientific testing.  Can’t have it all.

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