Louise Hay, the world’s biggest self-help publisher and author, is laughing at me. What’s your first thought when you wake up, she asks.
“Um, most days it’s, ‘Shit, I have so much to do’. Then I start composing emails and conversations in my head…” I stop and look at Louise’s face.
“OK. Correction. I used to wake up that way.”
This week Hay gave me a lesson in affirmations as she ate breakfast (scrambled eggs, three sausages and five prunes). (For more tips from my i/v with Louise click here.)
“Become aware of your self-critique and turn it into past tense,” she instructs.
This proves challenging. Yet highly entertaining for Hay. Hay’s 84 and I’m astounded by her energy and sparkle (her whole being is awesomely clear and bright) as she helps me switch my negative self-talkin’ ways.
If Hay didn’t invent positive-speak, she packaged and delivered it to the masses. Her first book, You Can Heal Your Life – which explains illness in terms of negative emotions in your body – has sold more than 50 million copies. When folk tell you your throat infection is about trapped creativity, they’ve read Hay. When they start quoting pretty much any self-help mantra they’re read one of her authors (she publishes Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and dozens more).
I was born acerbic and I’m one of those people who protects their ego by taking the piss out of themselves before someone else can. “So I’ve got a lot of resistance to affirmations,” I tell her. (Dammit! Correction. I used to.)
So Hay shares her favourite trick after forty years of healing others and curing herself of cancer. “Get a mirror.”
What? I can’t look at myself in mirrors, I tell her. I never can. (I mean, could! Never could!)
“Every morning look at yourself, really look at yourself in the eyes and say, ‘Sarah, I love you exactly as you are’,” she says, reaching for my hand. “Just try it.” So, I do.
Every day this week I stare into my eyes and go through a Five-Step Process of Awkwardness Wonderful Awakening. Step one: Urgent Need to Run (it takes every iota of courage to stay staring). Followed by: Feeling Ridiculous; Sadness (when I realise how distanced I am from myself); Comfort, and finally, Alright, I Get It. This is squirmy to share, but after a week of telling my reflection I love it, I reach a point where it feels like that moment when you’re scanning a crowd of strangers and a friend’s face suddenly appears, smiling. They were there all along, calm and ready to greet you.
Affirmations get a bad rap. They seem self-deluding. And it involves talking in your head. But, let’s face it, that what we already do. It’s just that it’s generally negative and self-doubting. You realize this when you’re challenged to switch to positive affirmations, even just as an experiment. Hay says it’s a choice. You can either talk the bad stuff or the good stuff. “Affirmations make you feel better,” she says. They just do. You can make money or seek the perfect partner to feel better, or you can shortcut things and go straight to feeling better.
I like her pragmatism. A lot. I like her a lot. I’m in awe. She walks her talk vibrantly. And, yes, it is a choice. And we do intuitively know – even in the absence of concrete, scientific evidence – that what you put out there, you get back. It’s how life works. As a simple example – negative talkers are a downer and eventually stop getting invited to barbeques.
This week I noticed that committing to positive affirmations is a lot about becoming more aware of how you’re choosing to live. Simply saying, “I have a great job” got me more aware of the good aspects of my work. Which, in turn, got me more focused on enhancing them. I became more aware of being calm when sitting at my computer. And, oddly, I noticed my computer password I use each day had a really negative vibe to it. I’d never noticed and suddenly it felt really…down. Hay adds this:
“Mirror talking gets resistance out of the way”.
Yes, yes it does! You invariably squirm and struggle with your doubts and acerbic tendencies and overall disappointment with yourself when you tell your reflection you love it and “there are great experiences coming our way today”. But with practice, the resistance fades.
And so when you exit the bathroom and start your day everything does feel less awkward and, well…better.