Welcome to Day 1 of 'Affirmations Don’t Work Unless You Do the Work'. This is a new series where I’ll pick an affirmation card and talk about how to go beyond just reciting it, to actually living and working with it.
Today's affirmation: I choose to see my life through a lens of gratitude.
Why I’ve never been able to stick with a gratitude practice
I’ve tried (and failed) setting up a gratitude practice in all the ways you can think of. I’ve downloaded apps, I’ve tried journals, I’ve tried meditations. They all stick for a short while then eventually die off.
I think part of the problem is that a big number of popular gratitude practices seek to make it something you do. It becomes procedural — like praying before you eat, for those of us who once had a religious background. Something you do because it’s expected, but without any real meaning or intention behind it.
Gratitude becomes something to cross off your daily checklist, to pat yourself on the back for, and then forget about 5 minutes later.
Instead, I think it’s more helpful when gratitude stops being some exercise that we do, and starts being an inbuilt perspective. A way to see life. An approach that begins when you get out of the bed in the morning, and that you carry with you throughout the day.
It’s really easy to tap into a spirit of gratitude on the days that life seems to be working out. It’s those other days where I feel really challenged. So when I pulled this card yesterday night with an affirmation about gratitude, I may have rolled my eyes a bit.
Okay, a lot.
So that got me thinking about the days when it feels like I don’t fit in. When I feel that the things I offer aren’t valuable enough to be appreciated by this world. How can I be grateful for my life on those days?
And what I’ve been able to find that works for me so far is this: stepping out of the doubt for a few minutes — literally even 2 minutes — to remind myself of all the things I do really well.
A list of all the ways I’m awesome (even if the world doesn’t think so!):
My brain doesn’t function like a neurotypical person’s does. It’s hard for me to stick to schedules and implement habits. But that freedom has also allowed me to build and imagine a life that looks different from social conventions.
I’m not climbing a corporate ladder where I’ll be more afraid to fall the higher up I go. I’ve spent years working on projects and then tearing them down once it’s time to move on. Starting over from scratch doesn’t faze me. I can reset and restart my life at any point, and that’s actually pretty freaking exciting if you think about it.
Because I’ve accepted the fact that my life will not be one streamlined path, I’m able to dream up exciting ideas of all the ways I can channel my strengths into jobs and careers. If you stop me on the street at 3 a.m., I can rattle off at least 4 things I would love to do with my life if I had the time. And the thing is… I can do them all. I’m not bound by a strict career path. If anything, my only limit is time and energy.
Existing on the periphery of social norms is scary. You will always be reminded of the ways you’re not enough. You will sit in a room of important-looking people in suits and start to question what the fuck you’re doing with your life.
This is normal. Expect it.
But whenever it gets too much and you need to re-balance yourself, remind yourself that you are awesome. You, dear internet stranger, can do amazing things. Your strengths will open doors for you that you didn’t even know existed. Imagine the wasted potential of spending your life trying to squeeze into a door that’s too small, because the world never taught you about all the other doors that are a perfect fit. So get out there and find the doors that your gifts unlock.