By Bob Poczik
Last winter a woman whom I didn’t know called to let me know that she had been moved to tears by my My View column about Christmas decorations that appeared last December. She had hesitated to call out of fear that it might be intrusive. I told her that I really loved getting her call, and realized that affirmations are often not given because people hold back out of fear of embarrassment or intruding. It got me to thinking about the importance and value of affirmations.
I’m sorry to report that most of us generally go around doubting ourselves, questioning our self-worth, feeling that we haven’t done enough and comparing ourselves to others, mostly to our detriment.
I took a human relations course years ago where the instructor asked us to pay attention to what our inner voice, the voice inside our mind, was saying to us. He asked us to “turn up the volume” for a week and report on the results. So I paid attention to it and discovered, as did everyone else in the course, that the messages were mostly negative: I’m no good at things; others are better than me; I’m a failure and someday everyone is going to find out.
The instructor told us that unless we change that inner voice, we are always going to feel inadequate and disempower ourselves. Affirmations are a way we can help others to change that inner voice.
When you break through the distance that lies between us as humans, and let others know you notice them, appreciate them and see value in who they are, you might make someone’s day – or week, month or year. You might just be tossing a lifebuoy to someone who is drowning in loneliness, self-doubt and despair.
In my career, I was a successful manager in a state agency. When I shifted to a private research firm, I was asked to manage a troubled part of the company. I encountered a good deal of resistance and several staff members left for other jobs. I felt like a failure, and confessed that to a friend who was very familiar with my previous work. She reminded me that I had always been a wonderful manager and that it was common for my staff members to say that I was the best boss they ever had. It was a redemptive message.
My new staff and I went on to become a very positive and productive team in the company. My retirement party from that job overflowed with affirmations.
My son Philip teaches writing at a community college that requires all students to take an English composition class. What they soon find out is that they draw upon their life experiences for their writing.
When they share their writing with each other, they end up sharing themselves. Philip creates a safe environment in the class, where students are comfortable being vulnerable. In the process, they learn a lot about themselves and about their fellow students.
At the last class session each semester, he asks each student to listen while other students say what they have come to appreciate or admire in that student. He tells them that it is easier to be negative, to put down or criticize someone, than it is to be positive. Every student has the opportunity to hear such affirmations.
The students are often moved to tears by hearing the good things that others see in them, something they rarely hear from others.
So, keep in mind that when people are hurting inside, they often “put on a good face” and suffer in silence.
A compliment or praise, if well intentioned and genuine, may be just what someone needs to get through a tough period of self-doubt and discouragement. Don’t hold back. Your voice may be the very one they need to hear.