I’m an undoubtedly positive person, even with all the hardship illness has brought my way the last handful of years. Dealing with illness is hard and dealing with a rare disease has its additional hardships. In this post, I’m going to share my secret to having a positive attitude and that is to “fake it till you make it”. It has always been one of my favourite sayings for dealing with life. Before you judge, hear me out! By “fake it”, I don’t mean to fake who you are or to be a fake person, but rather to fake who you want to be, to fake the confidence you wish you had, to fake the positivity you wish you had. “Faking it until you make it” isn’t about changing who you are, rather it’s about reprogramming the way you talk to yourself to learn how to have a more positive self-talk.
One of the ways I apply this to my life is when it comes to confidence. I’ve dealt with many things throughout my life and my illness has affected by body visibly, like when I got my first feeding tube that I called the nose-hose. I had gotten my feeding tube at the beginning of an 8 week hospital stay. I had never seen one before I saw the thick tube coming out of my nose. When I saw it the first time, all I could think about was how it looked like a worm on my face. Cute right? Anyways, my hospital stay was during the summer and, as my body became re-nourished, I started to have a bit more energy and wanted to enjoy the fresh air.
That first time I finally left the pediatric ward being pushed in a wheelchair with my IV pump and feeding tube pump piled onto an IV pole dragging along with us, I kept my head down. We waited in the hallway and, when the elevator doors opened, I couldn’t meet the eyes of those riding along with me. I was afraid what people would think of the tube. If I hated what it looked like on me, what would others think? Obviously, I wasn’t very put together rolling outside in my pyjamas and fuzzy socks, greasy blonde hair pulled into a messy bun, but all that fell into the background every time I swallowed and felt the hard tube like a bump in the back of my throat.
It took time before I became comfortable with what I looked like again and that situation certainly wasn’t the last time either that my body would change in a way others could see. Over the years, I’ve had feeding tubes, surgeries leaving white scars against my pale skin, my body has lost and gained weight, my hair has fallen out, muscles wasted, and going from using endless braces to support my subpar joints to using a cane to a rolling walker (making me feel like an old lady) to becoming a full time wheelchair user. With each of these changes, I’ve had to relearn the hills and valleys of my body and I’ve had to relearn to be comfortable in what my vessel now looked like, over and over again.
Though I’ve never been a very self conscious person, these things all affected me in some way however I’ve coped with them all the same way: through changing my self talk. It’s a really simple concept that takes time and effort to work but, if you’re committed, your habits will change. The only thing you need to do is change how you speak to yourself, speaking to yourself with affirmative and supportive language. Easier said than done eh? But, if you think about it, it makes so much sense. The knowledge of how to do this is naturally within us, except usually we use dissenting thoughts, putting ourselves down instead of lifting our spirits up. We’re all guilty for having engaged in negative self talk, we all do it. Examples of these negative thoughts are things like telling ourselves we’re not good enough or not talented enough or not pretty enough.
What if slowly but surely, we changed this into positive talk? When you’re looking into the mirror and you catch yourself thinking about all the things you don’t like about yourself, stop your train of thought and change its direction. Tell yourself how much you love yourself. Tell yourself how beautiful every inch of your body is. Tell yourself how beyond worthy you are. At first, you probably won’t believe it. If you’re unconsciously thinking negative thoughts, it will take a lot of conscious positive thinking to change it. But this is important because what we think becomes our reality. What we think forms our experience of the world.
These positive thoughts that we use to replace these negative thoughts are called affirmations. With these affirmations, you use your conscious thinking to change your unconscious thinking. Affirmations shouldn’t be used to ignore or change your emotions. It’s important to feel what you need to feel but, at the time, you need to be able to move past it eventually. Rather than judging ourselves for having “negative” emotions (I say negative loosely because no emotions are bad!), we can use affirmations to help us cope with a situation and improve our quality of life. Smiling is contagious, positivity is contagious, and that works on yourself too! The more positivity you bring into your life, the more positivity you will come to feel. When we are more aware of who we are and what makes us happy, we will keep filling our life with positivity. What you think drives who you are and how you live your life. If you want things to change, you need to start at the bottom with your thoughts.
Saying this, affirmations will not fix your life. They will not get you a job you enjoy better, it will not undo a terrible situation you’ve been through or bring back a person you lost. They will not fix illness or chemical imbalance or marginalization. They are not everything. Sometimes, our mindset isn’t the problem, our situation is. There are times in your life where you can’t just think your way out of the situation. But, it’s a tool you can add to your toolkit for improving your self esteem or helping yourself feel more confident or helping deal with negative emotions and not judging yourself for feeling them. This method may not work for you even though it works for me and that’s a-okay! However, for me, surrounding myself with good thoughts and good words and love and warmth is the key to keeping my spirits up, even in the toughest of times.