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How to Overcome the Stuart Smalley Syndrome


photo: Alberto on flickr

photo: Alberto on flickr

We’ve all been there.

We’re saying something affirmative. Maybe it’s our morning affirmations. Maybe it’s a sales pitch. Maybe it’s an attempt to get ourselves motivated to do something we don’t want to do.

As the words leave our mouths, a person flashes in our minds. Big blond hair. Yellow shirt and powder-blue cardigan. A face full of inauthentic cheer.

Could it be?

Do we really sound that bad?

That unconvincing?

We do. And we have only one person to thank:

Stuart Smalley!

stuart one done

You remember Stuart, right? (If you don’t, go to youtube and do a search. You need to see this.)

Stuart Smalley was the brainchild of the comedian Al Franken. (Interestingly enough, Stuart is Al Franken’s middle name.) Stuart first showed up on “Saturday Night Live” in the early Nineties in a mock self-help show called “Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley.”

As Stuart spoke his utterly unconvincing affirmations, I cringed. I’d been there. Trying so hard to change my “stinkin’ thinkin’,” only to find myself back in “a shame spiral.”

There were other things about Stuart that made me cringe, though I was less aware of it at the time.

Stuart is both effeminate and ineffectual. As someone who lives outside the gender norms, I’m aware of an indirect message in Stuart’s portrayal.

Being emotional is weak. Being effeminate is weak. Affirmations are weak.

photo: JCardinal18 on flickr

photo: JCardinal18 on flickr

Stuart is funny, I’m not arguing with that. But my experience with affirmations is that when I start to claim and affirm something that’s new for me, something that goes against the limited beliefs I’ve held about myself, I feel a little bit like . . .

Stuart Smalley.

Weak. Silly. Unconvincing.

For me, the trick to overcoming the Stuart Smalley Syndrome has been to learn to love this part of myself. To keep saying the affirmations until I really believe them. To allow the old beliefs to be flushed out and saturated with love.

This takes time. And patience. And a willingness to see that
being emotional isn’t weak. It’s a sign of strength. Affirmations aren’t
silly, they’re a potent resource.

There are two affirmations I’ve been saying for years, affirmations that have totally changed how I see myself.

The first is: “I approve of myself just the way I am.”

photo: Sundaram Ramaswamy on flickr

photo: Sundaram Ramaswamy on flickr

These are powerful words.

They’re great to say when I’m challenged. Or when I’m frustrated. Or when I’m happy. It’s an all-purpose statement.

I highly recommend it.

The other affirmation is: “Z, you’re wonderful and I love you.”

(You’re welcome to say “Z, you’re wonderful and I love you” as well, but it would probably be more powerful if you use your own name.)

I say these affirmations out loud after I meditate. I also occasionally say them in front of the mirror. When I first started using them, decades ago, I barely believed them.

I probably had the same expression on my face as Stuart.

stuart two done

But now I believe them. These affirmations – along with meditation and affirmative prayer – provide a strong basis for a joyous and fulfilling life. Yes, I have challenges at times. But I know I can handle them.


stuart middle done

(I had to say it.)

Even though I found Stuart laughable when I first saw him, I also appreciated that he was there at all. After all, as the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said:

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

Every day, there is more and more evidence for the power of positive thinking. It can change lives. It can change families. It can change communities.

Stuart was a sign that the power of affirmations was starting to hit the mainstream. I love him for that.

Plus he rocks that powder blue cardigan. Just sayin’.

stuart last

How have you overcome the Stuart Smalley Syndrome? Share your comments below!

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23 Responses to How to Overcome the Stuart Smalley Syndrome

  1. Kat February 4, 2014 at 7:10 am #

    Hi Z,

    LOL…Tuesday has become my favorite day of the week because I get to spend time reading your blog. I am always inspired by your wisdom and humor, and I appreciate the time and energy you put into making my world a better place.

    “Z, you’re wonderful, and I love you.” (Just had to say it.) :))

    Many Blessings,

    • Z Egloff February 4, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

      Hi Kat!

      Hey – thanks for letting me know that I’m part of the grooviness of your Tuesdays. That made my day. “Kat, you’re wonderful and I love you!!” :)


  2. Tracy Stewart February 4, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    My prayer partner, Rose, came up with a solution for those affirmations that appeared to be so far from conditions, that my mind would fight me every step of the way. It was a way to ease into the affirmation. She suggested I use the word “allow”.

    When I couldn’t grapple with “I have all the money I need”, I could accept “I allow myself to have all the money I need”. Intellectually I knew that everything was already given and what was not in my experience just showed where I wasn’t “allowing” the Good to flow. This kept my mind a little more quiet so that I got to “I have all the money I need” more quickly and with less resistance.

    it seems that allowing opens me to accepting which opens me to having all my Good.

    • Z Egloff February 4, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

      Hi Tracy,

      Thank you for passing along this great idea and technique. “Allow” is such a wonderful word in this context.

      Something I’ve used to similar effect is adding “I’m willing to believe that…” in front of an affirmation that’s meeting resistance from my mind. Or, if need be: “I’m willing to be willing to believe. . .” Anything to help quiet that resistant, Stuart-esque brain.

      Thank you for your comment! :)


  3. Jo Lauer February 4, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    Tracy, I like that “allow” word–leaves some wiggle room for those of us uncomfortable with saying things that aren’t quite in our reality–yet. Thanks, Z, for opening up this topic. One of my favorite affirmations (with wiggle room built in) is, “I am whole, perfect, and complete–just the way that I am, and just the way that I am not.” Now, I’m going to take myself into the world and “allow” money to find me :-)

    • Z Egloff February 4, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

      Hi Jo,

      Thank you for sharing this affirmation. I appreciate the wiggle room allowed (so to speak) in there. It’s that theme of approval again, great to counteract the inner critic.

      And I claim and affirm that you’re allowing lots of money to find you as well! :)


  4. squirrel February 4, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Z, you’re wonderful and I love you.

    i’ve been working with affirmations and going deeper into my practice, and wouldn’t you know…all kinds of hidden beliefs are popping up…i see this as a good thing or, at least, a god thing. i’m taking the opportunity to see and understand my hidden beliefs – bring them to light – and invite them to leave. sometimes they knock me down and i start listening to them, but i soon get back up, brush myself off, and continue on my path…”for a saint is just a sinner who fell down, and then got up…” (is that going to be playing in your head now? it’s an ear worm for me; is the same true for you?)

    love and many blessings,
    le squirrel

    • squirrel February 4, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      i just re-read what i wrote, and i apologize for the verb disagreement…i should probably proofread stuff before i post it, huh? hahaha

      • Z Egloff February 4, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

        No need to apologize. I approve of you just the way you are!!! 😉

        • squirrel February 4, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

          “…just the way you are, and just the way you’re not, we welcome you into our hearts…”

          is that one better than “we fall down”?

          • Z Egloff February 5, 2014 at 11:10 am #

            I like ’em both!! It’s all good, as the kids say. 😉

    • Z Egloff February 4, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

      Bon Jour Le Squirrel!

      Yes, I will now have that song in my head all day. Thank you! 😉

      Affirmations are great at bringing out everything that opposed to them. But affirmations are mighty, and in the end they will prevail!! The trick is, like you say, to keep realizing that you’ve gotten fooled by the hidden beliefs. And then keep pick yourself back up and keep on keepin on. Yessssss!

      I heard something once years ago: You’ll only fail if you stop trying. I remember this a lot. It helps me when I lose my way and think I should give up. Which is never a good idea.


      • squirrel February 4, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

        i’d love it if you had a “like” button. 😀 yes, i keep on keepin’ on. :)

  5. Donna February 4, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    Hi Z.
    Z – you are wonderful, and I love you!
    I remember Stuart Smalley very well. At the time I was tuning into Saturday Night Live every week. I was also in a place in my recovery where affirmations were important to me. I appreciated him for bringing affirmations to people who didn’t know a thing about them, and he put little nuggets of truth to them in the form of comedy. I actually used the affirmation “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.” I used it when the world of woe got too heavy for me and I needed a chuckle. It worked! Just as you help me thru times when I’m spiritual confused. Thanks for your honesty, spirituality and your delightful sense of humor!
    Love and Blessings,

    • Z Egloff February 4, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      Hi Donna,

      You are wonderful and I love you too!!

      I love how you describe using Stuart’s words to both soothe you and bring a smile to your face. A potent combination, if ever there was one. I also like that you point out that he was bringing this information to people who didn’t know about it. That’s a wonderful view of our friend Stuart. :)

      Thanks for stopping by!


  6. Karen February 4, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    I remember that funny Stuart character. Great parody. There was even a little humor book out with his over-the-top affirmations.

    It’s so good to laugh at ourselves and our efforts in all areas of life, and Stuart certainly brought that fun to personal development.

    The main thing I’ve learned about affirmations from Abraham-Hicks is that they do need to be fairly believable to be effective. It doesn’t do much good to rotely recite something we don’t believe in the hope of its becoming reality. It has to FEEL in the realm of possibility.

    Years ago, to manifest money, I’d affirm things such as “I’m wealthy, I’m rich. I have all the money I want.” Not much good came of it until I tweaked it in the direction of “Money is gradually increasing in my experience” or “I am gradually feeling more prosperous.”

    Instead of a hard core statement of fact, I began to go for soft, incremental, good-feeling expectation.

    Wiggle room — yes!

    • Z Egloff February 5, 2014 at 11:18 am #

      Hi Karen,

      Thank you for another fabulous comment! :)

      I like this word “gradual” and how you put it to work for you. I like how you and Tracy and Jo point out the importance of finding an affirmation that fits for you. As you remind us, without that belief, in the form of our emotions, the affirmation doesn’t work. I also like that there is often a key word – in your case “gradual,” and in Tracy’s case “allow” – that makes the whole thing come together. I also like the idea of soft, incremental expectation. Stuart himself couldn’t have said it better! :)


  7. Sherry February 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    I like how it was pointed out that we can use affirmations to see where our true beliefs are. Like – if you say an affirmation, and it doesn’t feel right, it probably means you don’t believe in it – or in yourself. So, what can you do to make yourself believe that about yourself.

    Z – I really love your Blogs – especially the photos. They make me laugh right out loud!

    • Z Egloff February 6, 2014 at 11:41 am #

      Hi Sherry,

      Yes, that’s one of things I love about affirmations. While they can shape our beliefs, they also show us what we currently believe! In my experience, I’ve found that the affirmation has to have enough believability that I can say it and start building a new belief. If it’s too unbelievable, I need to change the affirmation to fit my current belief structure better. I love all the suggestions and solutions for this kind of tweaking of affirmations that have been shared in this comment section.

      I’m glad you like the photos! I get them from a site called Flickr Creative Commons. They’re free to use if I give the photographer’s name when I post it. I SO appreciate all the wonderful photos that people share. :)


  8. Ladee March 9, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    Beautifully written! Finding self love when I felt that I would only be loved living as another person was harder than when I tried loving myself as myself. The internal tug of war was scary, hard, emotional, and nearly broke me as I had to find and let go of the untruths that I forced myself to believe my whole life. But damn, the reward has been worth it all. I never knew self love could feel so good. And never understood how amazing being unique is until now.

    Thank you!

    And I can tell you are loved!

    • Z Egloff March 11, 2014 at 11:11 am #

      Hi Ladee,

      Thanks for sharing this. It really can be a struggle to love ourselves exactly as we are. What you describe sounds soooo familiar. And I agree with you that the reward is so rich and so fulfilling, it makes it worth all the struggle that it took to get here.

      I can tell you are loved as well! :)


  9. Jill Shinn March 13, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

    HI Z, I love Stuart too (even if those pants make his butt look big!)
    Anyway, an affirmation I’d like to share is a little something I use when I’m annoyed with or judgmental toward someone:

    I forgive you, I forgive me.
    I accept you, I accept me.
    I love you, I love me.”

    This works great because so often we’re projecting our own stuff onto others and then reacting to them. This brings everything full circle in a soothing way.

    • Z Egloff March 19, 2014 at 10:50 am #

      Hi Jill!!

      This is a great affirmation. Thank you for sharing it with me and all of us! I like the way that it brings everything back home, so to speak. Awesome.


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