The alternative to affirmations

Make your own case

When I was trying to stop smoking over 10 years ago, I tried a number of methods, including willpower and cold turkey and nicotine substitutes before finding the Alan Carr “how to stop smoking book”. I thought it was brilliant as it really explained the reasons behind why I was smoking and why I was mistakenly thinking I was enjoying it. However, after about three months I found myself craving cigarettes again, and finally starting again, but this time with more fervour than before.

I really appreciated and understood the rationale behind the book, so I signed up for an intensive weekend in Raynes Park, where for two days a group of us were taken through a more in-depth experience than the book could offer. The course cost £200, but with a money back guarantee if it didn’t work. I was more than willing to test this, so I went on the course, almost willing myself to fail. I wanted to prove that I was the exception, that it might work for others but there was something different and special about me, which was the reason why I couldn’t quit.

I went home after the weekend feeling a bit underwhelmed – like there was still a bit of me that thought smoking was fun, or that I was genuinely getting something from it. Sure enough, a week later, I picked up a cigarette again. I looked at the documentation to find out how to get my £200 reimbursed, and discovered, much to my dismay, that the only way to get the money back was to attend another day’s face to face class. If at the end of that I still wanted my money back, then I could – no questions asked.

I turned up at what I thought of as the “naughty class” – along with all the other people for whom the initial sessions hadn’t been enough. As before, we were allowed to smoke during the sessions, and these sessions focused on what was still keeping us smoking. There were chances to ask the group leader all the questions we wanted, and to explain exactly why our situation was different. The leader gently and kindly dismantled every last “good reason” my brain could think of for smoking. Every last “yes, but what about…?”

I left that day with a sense of peace. I had absolutely no desire for a cigarette. The rebel in me wanted to want one (as well as getting back my £200!) but I couldn’t make myself want one. Every last reason had gone from my psyche and I was left with what was real. This was when I realised that our brains are so determined to be “right” that we have to dismantle every last reason for us to hold false beliefs.

So hold your negative belief up to the light and question it like it’s the Spanish inquisition. Those affirmations that you know are true – that you are beautiful, that you are good enough. What will it take for you to really believe them? Find evidence. Treat it as a competency-based job interview. “Tell me about a time when…” – you were a good person, you were kind, someone complimented your appearance etc. Be as relentless as a door-stepping tabloid news reporter. Write down all the evidence you can find in support of your worth, your attractiveness, your value. Challenge the negatives. If a friend said the negative things to herself that you are saying to yourself, how would you treat her? Would you allow her to get away with “truths” such as “I am unloveable”, “I am not good enough”. Of course not! So get in your own corner. Not because it’s important to affirm things or “people should love themselves”. But because it’s the TRUTH.

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