How Talking to Myself Changed My Life (and Improved My Impersonations)

Raquel on vacay, loving her damn life. Most people have long regarded affirmations with good-humored derision and copious eye-rolling. They are the stuff of legends, a telltale hallmark of self-help books and weight-loss conventions. When I was a wee-child, my father forced me to listen to these mad cheesy affirmation cassettes in an effort to make me a “more positive person.” I am now forever scarred by hackneyed phrases and creepy monotone voices.

In the past couple of years, however, affirmations have recently come back on the radar. While there are many different kinds of affirmations, they all rely, more or less, on the same premise: that over time, upon repeating positive statements aloud, the individual will eventually believe that said statements are true.

New research shows that affirmations can do more than just help self-esteem – they can actually improve problem solving skills by reworking the neural pathways and curbing stress. They can also provide much-needed daily perspective, focus, and encouragement.  

So, in the spirit of practicing for patience, I decided to give Think Up a try for two weeks. Think Up is a positive affirmations app that allows you to personalize affirmations and customize them to fit your lifestyle and goals.

Their elevator speech: “What stops you from achieving goals or becoming who you want to be? Build your own-self improvement program to develop the positive mindset you need to succeed, using affirmations on a WHOLE NEW LEVEL: personalized, inspiring, from the pros.”

I can dig it. I dig free downloads, goals and becoming who I wanna be. Do I dig affirmations? ….Maybe?  But hey, I’m up for trying new things, and I can be open to the possibility of a “positive mindset.”

Here are some not-so detailed journal excerpts of my experience.

Day 1:

Okay, so the deal is that you get to choose from a variety of different categories like Health, Self-confidence, Body Image, Abundance, Career, Entrepreneurship, etc. With the free version of Think Up, you get to choose four affirmations. I chose:

  1. “I am grateful for the good in my life.”
  2. “My body is a gift.”
  3. “I am aware of what I offer to the world.”
  4. “I am always at the right place at the right time, doing just the right thing.”

What differentiates Think Up is that you actually record your own affirmations aloud. Then you set notifications am/pm so that your own voice is the first thing you hear when you wake up and the last thing you hear before bed. The app strings together your affirmations with pauses in between, so you have enough time to say them out loud; the recording plays on a loop with soothing music in the background.

So…time to record myself. “I am grateful…” Oh no, I feel too silly. I need to start over. “I am grateful for the…” I’m laughing again. Take this SERIOUSLY, Raquel. “I am grateful for the good in my life.” DONE. Phew. Okay. Three more to go.

Before I go to bed, I have my first Think Up “session.” I listen to my affirmations, repeat them back, try my hardest to really absorb the messages, but I feel stupid so I stop after three minutes. I promise myself to try harder tomorrow.

Day 7:

It takes some real dedication to not ignore the reminder Think Up sends me. I’ve set it at 6:00 am and 10:30 pm, but in the fog of the morning, I am always too tired and at night, I’m too distracted by the process of winding down that I just swipe away the push notification. BUT... like any good practice, I’ve just trained myself to just do it. Nike was right gosh darnit – JUST DO IT, MY DUDES.

And I’ve gotten over the whole “this sounds too cheesy to take seriously” thing. I’ve embraced the drama of it, and it’s become super fun. If you’re a natural thespian, affirmations just might be the thing for you. I do different voices for different affirmations. Yesterday, I pretended I was a ~zen yogi~. Today, I pretended I was a young Robert DeNiro obsessed with self-care. IT’S FUN WHEN YOU STOP GIVIN’ A SHIT. Life lesson.

Day 14:

I am doing these affirmations so often that I find myself saying them at random points in the day. I probably look crazy muttering quietly over the sink while washing paint brushes, “I am aware of what I offer to the world.” But the crazy thing is that I find myself repeating the affirmations when good things happen during the day, almost as if I am subconsciously echoing back the positivity I’m putting out into the world.

I’ve had a great couple of weeks – work is super fun, I’ve been going to amazing places with amazing friends, and my skin is doing fucking great right now. I don’t think that Think Up has anything to do with how well things are going, but I do think positive affirmations allow me to be more grateful for the happiness in my life. I am inclined to point out the goodness that surrounds me, so when something gets me down, rebounding is so much easier.

In conclusion, I dig this app. I did have to delete it because I was chintzy, only got a 16GB iPhone, and now I have no memory for Kim Kardashian Emojis, all my photos, AND this app. Sorry.   

But while doing Think Up, I found myself more energized and more focused throughout the day. Instead of getting up and immediately scrolling through Instaspam and Snapchamp, I bookended my day with positivity and love. Not to mention, you have to be really present in those moments in order to really absorb the affirmations. For someone who has tried mediation many a time and failed, affirmations have become my perfect form of meditation. Hearing and repeating my affirmations was active enough for me to feel engaged, but mindless enough for me to zone out.   

I think the key ingredient to a practice like this is simply hearing your own voice say statements you’ve chosen. It’s a constant reminder that you care enough, are motivated enough, and are willing enough to take self-care into your own hands. This is not some automated voice spewing positivity at you — this is you telling yourself what you need.  

So I’m an affirmation-convert. Don’t tell my dad tho. He’ll get too much satisfaction knowing he was right the whole damn time.

- Raquel Olvera

Image by Maddy Burton