Affirmations are becoming popular among the neurodivergent communities. I’m seeing affirmations for adults with autism and affirmations for ADHD. But affirmations are also a tool of spiritual bypassing. Hiding behind spirituality or spiritual experiences is the definition of spiritual bypassing, and for many, especially neurotypicals trying to “teach” those with neurodivergence, because affirmations work for THEM, they refuse to look at why they may not work for others. If you’re one of the many people who affirmations don’t work for, there’s nothing wrong with you. And there are ways to work with affirmations which don’t feel as if you’re lying to yourself.
A Psychology Today article suggests that affirmations don’t work for people with low self-esteem or who lack self-acceptance. However, I feel this only scratches the surface. It’s true that for many, especially late-diagnosed adults, there often is a lot of baggage to unpack growing up and being told things like “you’re lazy” or “you’re just not trying hard enough”. Being told these lies, even by well-meaning individuals, does lead to low self-esteem and a lack of self-acceptance. But the issues with affirmations go so much deeper.
One facet of many neurodivergent individuals is the seeking to know “why”. It’s not enough to say something, or do something, just because it’s supposed to work or help. Fake it until you make it feels cold and hollow, and for far too many that’s what affirmations seems like. If you lie to yourself enough times, you’re supposed to believe it. Except, why would you want to lie to yourself in the first place? Isn’t it better to understand where you are and the truth of the situation, so then you can move forward with trying to change it when and where you can?
This is why instead of focusing on affirmations like “Money always flows to me” or “I have clients lining up for my services”, instead I focus on things I can control, on the ways I can adjust my own daily living.
It’s okay to rest.
I am gentle with myself.
I am not everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s okay because I don’t like all flavors of tea anyway.
None of these are focused on the “get rich quick” which seems to be the goal of too many mindset and affirmation coaches these days. Instead, think about your relationship with yourself. How can you change it for the better? How can you treat yourself kinder?
Why? Because when we are gentle with ourselves we facilitate healing. One of the primary things someone who has endured trauma (and too many neurodivergent people have endured trauma) needs is a sense of safety. Cultivating this safety within yourself creates a foundation for then seeking and finding that safety in our external world.
So the next time someone mentions affirmations, it’s okay to be skeptical. Look at how they’re being used and to what purpose. Find ways to create affirmations without the sensation of lying to yourself. Instead, focus on those things which can better your relationship with yourself, rather than something external. And be gentle with yourself. You deserve it.