By Guest Writer: Melissa Ann Dimick Waller
Recently, my 9 year old son walked up to me and told me about the “pressure” he was feeling during the day. The pressure of needing to be good enough, the pressure of needing to be smart enough, the pressure of needing to be kind enough, fun enough, happy enough, loved enough, proud enough, capable enough. When we started diving into this idea of “pressure” I suddenly realized my sweet 9 year old was feeling anxiety.
Together, my son and I started exploring what to do to squash this pressure. We discussed the theory of a fist. Often, pressure or anxiety feels like a hand that grabs hold of you and won’t let go. Sometimes it feels like a hand grabs your heart and begins to squeeze. Sometimes it feels like a fist stuck in your throat and you can’t swallow. Sometimes it feels like a fist punched you in the face and you can’t relax your mouth. Sometimes it feel like the fist punched you in the gut. Pressure can take on many, many forms but it usually revolves around this fist.
We talked about this fist and how many fingers it has. Five. What are 5 truths that you know about yourself? Each truth has the power to make one of the fingers relax and lets you get out of the grasp of this hand. My son started to list off things he knew to be true about himself.
“I am smart. I am good at school. I am fun to be around. I will do my best. I am strong.”
That was when I realized. Positive affirmations were not helping my son. In fact, they were hurting him.
It is great to think about yourself as strong. As capable. As fun. As good at school.
But what happens WHEN (not if) life kicks you in the face? What happens when you are laying on your dirty bathroom floor, unable to move because you are suffering so badly for post-partum anxiety that the thought of looking at your other children makes you want to vomit? What happens when your family member comes to you and tells you that they have cancer and are living on borrowed time? What happens when you don’t have money in your account and hungry kids and shoes with holes in them? What happens when the person you have given your life and soul to looks you in the face and tells you that they don’t love you anymore?
What happens when you don’t feel good enough, strong enough, fun enough, good at school, or like you can even take another breath because the hand around your heart is squeezing so hard you can’t even breathe? How are your positive affirmations going to help you then? My son needed 5 things that are true, have always been true and will always be true. And I’ve come to realize, we all need these 5 truths. We all need to know that when there is nowhere else to turn, when there is nowhere else to hide, when we are backed into a dark, scary corner; that there are 5 things about us that are still true. That there are 5 truths that no one can ever take away from you.
Here are my son’s 5 truths:
- I am a child of God
- Mommy loves me
- Daddy loves me
- I am a part of this family
- I am enough. No matter what person I show up as today, I am enough. If I get no questions right on my math test, I am enough. If I get every single question right, I am still enough. If I feel mean and mad and angry, I am enough. If I am happy and kind, I am enough. I am enough.
None of these truths will ever change, even as the surrounding circumstances around my son change. His personality will change. His interests will change. His life will change. But none of his truths will change. We talk about his truths every day. We discuss how they have been life changing to him and how he no longer feels pressure. We don’t “do” positive affirmations in this house. We do truths.