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Self-Affirmations/Self-Deprecations (Part One)

(Names changed as requested)




I came out of the store last week, and there, on top of my “to do” list on the passenger’s side of the car, in full view for anyone to see, were three checks that I was taking to the bank to deposit. “How stupid can you be?” I said to myself. “Why not just invite someone to break into the car?” And then I immediately stopped. “It’s a mistake anyone can make,” I told myself. “And I am not stupid.” You see, I recently heard someone speak about getting rid of self-deprecating remarks and I began to realize how full of them many of my days were.


Since then I have been on a self-improvement campaign. I know how the messages we give ourselves affect us. They affect the way we think about ourselves, care for ourselves and, in general, affect almost every aspect of our lives. I believe that when we use frequent negative remarks about our behavior, we begin to see ourselves negatively. If we can eliminate this negative self-talk, we are certainly on the road to self-improvement and self-confidence. But ridding ourselves of such negative comments is only the first step. After that, we need to make self-affirmations or positive comments. That is not as easy as it sounds. Most of us have difficulty accepting praise from others, much less believing positive comments we make to ourselves. But it does make a difference.


Heather was having a difficult time coping with raising her six children, keeping her home in order and her full-time job. Her husband worked long hours and was not at home when she needed help most. When things went wrong with her kids, Heather blamed herself. She told herself, without even realizing it, that it was all her fault. Instead of seeing how well she was handling a difficult situation, she only saw that things were not running smoothly and blamed herself. She told herself things would be better if she was a better mother, more organized etc. etc. She filled her mind every day with statements of her inadequacy, over and over again. As a result, Heather felt badly about herself. She smiled less, her temper shortened and life for Heather became more difficult.



Heather’s friend, Bryna, had a similar situation. She, too, had a large family, a job, and a husband who wasn’t able to help as much as she needed. Heather noticed that Bryna appeared upbeat most of the time. She seemed to have more patience with her children and enjoyed them a lot more. When Heather asked her how she managed, Bryna didn’t quite understand what she was asking. She told Heather that she felt she was doing a great job as a mom: “I have six children, after all. Everyone knows it’s difficult and perfection is impossible. I know I do the best job I’m able, in my circumstances. And, I think that’s great.”



Dorit’s son had spina bifida. He walked with a limp and had other complications resulting from the disease. Dorit seemed to feel she was somehow responsible. She felt that G-d was punishing her for something she did, though she didn’t know what it was. She tried making deals and promises, but her son didn’t get better. She had difficulty seeing her situation as a challenge or a test. She just felt it was a consequence she didn’t deserve. She often seemed depressed and angry.


Yafit had a severely autistic child. He could not speak, would often wander off and could easily hurt himself if he was not watched 24 hours a day. It would have been normal for Yafit to wonder about the “whys” of her lot in life. But she never did. When I talked to her about her child, she said, “Can you imagine the faith Hashem has in me to entrust me with such a neshama (soul).” Yafit displays self-confidence and good cheer every time you meet her.


The silent and loud messages we give ourselves help frame how we feel about ourselves. Negative statements (called self-deprecations) contribute to lowering our self-esteem, damaging our self image and generally help turn us into someone even we ourselves don’t want to be around. Simply stopping negative self-talk is the first step in undoing the damage. Positive self-statements (called self-affirmations) do just the opposite. But how do we change? I’ll share some ideas next week.


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I’ve read your last few articles on psycho-neurological testing (Oct.8-22) with interest. As a therapist who has counseled couples dealing with chronic illness, I’d like to give you another perspective.

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Your articles on the Neuro-Psychological Testing were right on (October 8-22). My husband underwent testing twice and your articles explained it things exactly the way they were. Besides the test, we also tried therapy.

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Last week I discussed a question that haunts many well spouses: not knowing if the difficult and often inappropriate behavior frequently displayed by their partners are caused by the disease and therefore not-controllable, or if the behavior is a choice the spouse makes and can therefore be changed. This doubt can be the source of much frustration and many marital disagreements. One way of alleviating this doubt is by having a psycho- neurological work up done. But that path is not so simple.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/self-affirmationsself-deprecations-part-one/2006/01/18/

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