A few days ago, I decided my next blog post would be about my constant need for affirmation.
Then I sat down at my keyboard last night and second-guessed whether or not that would be an appropriate topic.
So I went downstairs where my fiance and roommate were hanging out and explained my dilemma to them.
I understood the irony of asking for affirmation on my blog post about…affirmation, and I returned to my keyboard.
I’ve needed affirmation my whole life. It’s one of those quirks that comes with the package that is Me.
My friend Rachelle and I even came up with our own “affirming” ritual during Twelfth Night rehearsals. One evening, she had received one too many notes and “suggestions” from the director concerning her acting, and she told me she just needed a bit of affirmation to keep going. So I did the totally-not-creepy gesture of stroking her cheek, looking her straight in the eyes with a big smile on my face, and repeated “AFFIRMATION” until she laughed.
We still do this every time we see each other, and the play ended almost two years ago.
Yet I still need those cheek strokes and cheers of AFFIRMATION on a daily basis.
I see my counselor twice a month, but lately I have called her once a week because of the nagging thoughts bouncing around my head that I just can’t let go of. I ask her if the thoughts I have are true, and if the fact that I have them means that something in my life has gone wrong. Every time I hang out with a friend, I air before them a laundry list of worries, and one by one I ask them, “Is this fear real?”
After looking at each worry, they reply “No, Lindsay, this is something you made up.”
And to their replies, I say, “Oh. You’re sure about that?”
The tricky thing about affirmation nowadays is that I’m second guessing everyone’s affirmations!
I doubt the intentions of my friends and even my counselors towards me and assume they only tell me I’m OK because they’re annoyed with me. I wonder whether they understand what’s going on, because if they did, they would tell me how unhealthy I am, how much my relationships are deteriorating, and how my life is falling to pieces.
They insist that I am well, but how? Can they not see what I see on a regular basis, what my intrusive thoughts know to be true: that I fail more often than I succeed, that I am wrong more often than I am right, that I am a burden and not a joy?
These intrusive thoughts I have are quite cruel. I try to accept them as only thoughts, but that doesn’t make their blows light. Now that my head is clearing up a bit, I can recognize their true nature and release some of their control over me. Every now and then, though, they throw me for a loop. And when I’m not in a good place, they knock me down and drag me under.
I could tell myself that when I get an intrusive thought about my relationship with my fiance, I don’t need to worry about it, because we don’t have any threatening problems. When I start doubting my competency at my jobs, I don’t have to assume I will be fired, because my bosses and co-workers esteem me. I could even affirm that the words I’m writing now aren’t complete garbage and might even inspire a few people.
But why would I do that? How could I do that, when the intrusive thoughts are obviously the true ones, and ignoring them will just get me hurt?
I try thought replacement. I tell myself I can trust the deep calm that lives beneath my anxious surface. But then I think of past mistakes and miscalculations, of the times I have let people use and abuse me, of the times I have been terribly wrong about something and had the rug pulled out from under me, and I start to doubt again, and I run to others to tell me that I am not wrong, because they are obviously more trustworthy than I will ever be.
It’s a vicious cycle. I’m trying to work my way out of it, and I know it will take a lifetime and then some. And right now, it’s kind of in that middle stage, where I still need others to tell me I am fine but can do a little bit of self-affirmation. This is due to the fact that I feel like my head is breaking the surface of the deep waters of anxiety and I’m no longer drowning.
It’s threatened on a regular basis, though. When people I admire go through their own crises, I begin to doubt my own strength to handle my own. When other peoples’ relationships fail, I doubt the strength of the relationships I have. When trailblazers conform to the status quo, I wonder if I’m wasting my time trying to go against the grain.
I have to work on affirming myself every day. And when I struggle to do that, I continue to affirm what others have told me time and time again: I am fine. Maybe one day I’ll believe it for myself, but when I can’t, I try to let them believe it for me, even when I wonder if I can trust them. It’s a very odd paradox.
But one day, I will be able to look at myself, stroke my own cheek, give myself a big, cheesy smile, and say “AFFIRMATION,” and actually mean it.