Affirmations may act as powerful tools to center your energy and mend your mental health, but standing in front of a mirror and looking yourself square in the eyes while repeating phrases that you might not believe — or even just writing them down — can seem like a difficult task. And, they can feel downright awkward at first, something model Ashley Graham knows all too well.
"It's awkward because a lot of the time what you're saying feels like a lie," Graham told POPSUGAR — if you are reciting affirmations aloud, your voice might be shaky, too, she added. "I was raised with the understanding that your words have power, and they will choose your destiny. And I knew that I needed to make affirmations for myself."
Graham suggests going to the root of what you're struggling with. "What are the things that you may not even be able to tell yourself? There is no right or wrong answer here. This is truly for you, made by you, and something to only better your life." For her, these affirmations were, at first: I am bold. I am brilliant. I am beautiful. I am worthy of all. I love you.
Graham recalled that, at 17 or 18 years old, she needed to tell herself "I am bold" because she was new to the modeling industry and had just moved to New York City. She was diagnosed with ADD and dyslexia growing up, so "I am brilliant" speaks to the people who always used to tell her she wouldn't be able to go anywhere due to those diagnoses.
As for "I am beautiful," Graham explained, "I'm in an industry that has told me that I'm everything from good, bad, ugly, pretty, tall, short, fat, skinny. I needed to know what beautiful was in my terms, not the world's terms." Next, "I am worthy of all" is another reminder to give herself grace and accept what comes her way, and "I love you," she noted, is the most difficult of affirmations. "A lot of people, the first person that they need to forgive is themselves. The first person they need to love is themselves. It can be a really tough one to say at the end of it all."
"I needed to know what beautiful was in my terms, not the world's terms."
Most importantly, Graham advised to be realistic about the affirmations that you want to rehearse and live by. For example, if words rooted in body positivity don't seem genuine to you, focus on body acceptance or body neutrality — this is something Graham learned from Demi Lovato when she was interviewing the actress and singer on her podcast, Pretty Big Deal. Plus, if you don't want to look at yourself in the mirror while you state affirmations, write them down or record them on your phone instead (Graham does this, and plays back her recordings on occasion).
Self-affirmations, self-care, and overall wellbeing are the topics that Graham will discuss in her new Airbnb Online Experience, "Loving Yourself in 2021," taking place Feb. 5 at 5 p.m. ET. There are 10 spots available, and bookings open on Feb. 3 at 5 p.m. ET. Sales will go to the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
Self-care, Graham said, has to be emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual. "I always try to challenge myself in all of those areas," she explained, noting that she turns to reading, prayer, and fitness. "Self-care is deeper than a massage or a bubble bath because those sometimes just feel like Band-Aids," she said.
Everyday rituals, Graham noted, are definitely needed, but self-care can also be "a heart change." Sometimes, she said, "it's a mind change, and it's a word change. And those are hard." You have to start somewhere. Dig deep, and find the affirmations that speak to you.