For years I was one of those people that would scoff at the thought of having a mantra. I guess to some extent I considered the practice to be too new-age, mumbo-jumbo-y for me. Or maybe I thought it was silly and felt embarrassed at the thought of repeating self-affirmations to myself. Who knows? Even after going through two different therapists and seeing great results, both of whom had me primarily focus on retraining my inner monologue, I still found myself looking down my nose at the thought of having a mantra. Perhaps I watched Stuart Smalley on SNL a little bit too much. At any rate, I was anti-mantra for no discernable good reason.
Then a couple of years ago, a friend and I started to get together for “Goal Nights.” We each came up with our own list of goals (both personal and professional), then got together for dinner and discussed the goals and how they could be achieved. It was empowering, liberating and scary all at the same time to see what I wanted to achieve written down in black and white. Okay, truth be told it wasn’t black and white, I used colorful markers, but you get the idea. Then every month or two we would get together to discuss how we were doing, and after about a year we reevaluated. Lo and behold, we had each achieved a goal or two, made strides toward achieving others and come to realize that some weren’t important to us after all.
So the goals were revamped, using our new found knowledge of what we wanted. This is when I stalled out. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what needed to be done, that was right there in front of me. My problem stemmed from the fact that I was getting in my own way. My self-doubts and emotional hook-ups were preventing me from taking the strides forward that I wanted to take. After much soul-searching I came to realize that I had three main issues that were holding me back.
- I had no faith in my writing ability. Every time I wrote something and worked up the courage to share it, I just KNEW that it was horrible and whoever was reading it would say so. If I happened to get a compliment back, I assumed that they were simply being nice. It’s really hard to achieve goals that involve large amounts of writing when you believe that you suck at writing.
- I believed that the only reason anybody would want me around is because I could provide them with something. Some skill, some service, some knowledge, something more than the pleasure of my company.
- Then to compound the above belief, I felt the need to prove myself. It wasn’t just that I had to be able to provide something for a person, I also had to prove to them that I could be helpful. Prove that I was good enough.
I realized that until I got over this, I would remain stalled out on my goals. I then did the heretofore unthinkable; I turned each of those hurdles into a mantra.
- I am a brilliant writer.
- People love me for me.
- I have nothing to prove.
Now, I would be lying if I said that I felt like anything but an utter and complete fraud when I wrote down those three sentences. There were laughable and egotistical and so far from the way I felt I was writing pure fiction. But I wrote them down anyway. I wrote them down on 5” x 7” cards in bright, impossible to ignore, colored markers. I made three of these cards then posted them all in my bedroom. At first I made a concerted effort to read through them at least twice a day – morning and night. Then that slacked off to once a day, then only whenever I found myself standing in front of one. However, as my room is not that big and I had made three cards, it was impossible to enter my room without seeing and at least subconsciously recalling what they said. “I am a brilliant writer. People love me for me. I have nothing to prove,” became as much a daily part of my brain as saying, “Zoey don’t eat that!” (For those of you who don’t know my dogs, I say that particular phrase a lot.)
I have had those cards up for probably close to two years now, I don’t know for sure, and I realized this morning, as I stood in front of my vanity and read them, that I don’t need them anymore. I believe what they say. They worked. Don’t get me wrong, there was a whole lot more work involved than simply repeating a mantra over and over again, but I feel that by repeating the mantras I tricked myself into believing that they were true. By believing that they were true, I started to act as if they were true, and by acting as if they were true, they actually became true.
Which I guess means that I am now a believer in the power of mantras and I would like to apologize to anybody that I openly, or secretly, scoffed at or made fun of for having mantras. I was an idiot, and failed to recognize the profound wisdom of your ways. But I see the light now, and find myself in need of some new mantras. I’ll have to do some soul-searching.
What’s your mantra?