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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