Look, I’ve never been great at self-affirming language. Yes, even though I’ve not only been through some therapy but even worked in the helping professions myself.
I know intellectually that the way we talk to ourselves matters. That you should make an effort to be explicitly kind to yourself.
But that hasn’t made it any easier for me to stand in front of the mirror and do the whole bit that feels so reminiscent of Stuart Smalley on SNL: I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.
It took me a long time to realize that maybe there were other ways that I could get to self-affirmation that didn’t feel so cheesy. And the Love Languages framework was a big help.
Quick & Dirty Explanation of Love Languages
It’s a wildly popular framework at this point, but in case you aren’t familiar, the Five Love Languages are a model developed by Gary Chapman that basically follows the premise that miscommunication can occur in relationships because we don’t all show and feel loved in the same ways.
I’ve written about love languages on this blog many times, but here is the list:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service (typically the hardest of the bunch to understand by name alone — people doing helpful things for you, basically — fixing things, chores, what have you, etc.)
- Physical Touch
Self-Affirming Using Acts
Somewhat hilariously, my top love language when it comes to other people is Words. I feel most loved when people compliment me and say kind things — and I reflexively give a lot of praise to people when I date them (and even to my close friends).
My partner’s top love language is Acts, however. Which means if I want to make him feel amazing, then I should do helpful things. In my own case, I’m often handling most of the meal planning and grocery logistics and doing a lot of chores. If I screw those things up, he takes it rather personally. (Where I’m more laidback about other people doing or not doing chores but get squirrelly if I’m not being spoken to kindly.)
Our second language is Physical Touch (a useful overlap), so we tend to bridge the gap a lot that way.
Anyway, when it comes to me showing love and compassion towards myself though, using Words makes me feel bizarre. But Acts? They work like a charm.
I know. It’s weird AF. But hey… I figured it out, right?
Better Failure States as a Self-Affirming Act
So what does a self-affirming act look like? Well, for me, it takes the form of better failure states. I wrote about that a bit in a previous post (as well as a concrete example):
…creating a better failure state is a form of self-compassion that can really help.
Instead of expecting yourself to be perfect and creating a system where if you fail to be perfect, things go badly (in my example, this meant eating too much food and spending too much money), you create a system where there are multiple ways for you to succeed. You set up a system where “failure” isn’t punishing but fine and expected.
It may sound counterintuitive, but giving yourself permission to be imperfect and setting up a system that supports that decision can be when you really start to thrive.
Words of Self-Affirmation Feel Weird, But Acts I Can Do
Anyway, maybe one day words of self-affirmation won’t feel so weird to me.
But until then, I have self-affirming acts as something I can do, a way that I can show myself self-compassion using something other than words.