Affirmation…emotional support or encouragement, confirmation and assurance. As humans we yearn to be affirmed, for someone to support us, approve of us and uphold us. People often engage in daily positive affirmations, positive self-talk and as I do believe that this can tremendously impact you and help you to align your mind and focus as you start each day, sometimes we need affirmed, supported, reminded of our strengths in other ways. As a mom and teacher, I not only need this for myself, but I want to know the best way to impact my children and students so that the support I provide for them doesn’t fall short of what they need.
So what do we need? What does affirmation look like? And when is it powerful, impactful, something that will stick and change us?
When those whom we respect acknowledge our progress there is a confirmation of our hard work. That might be when I praise my three year old son for recognizing he needed to go to the potty in time and not have an accident, but also when my boss takes a moment to recognize the difference I have made in the lives of my students. It also can be when my husband takes a moment during the chaos of dinner and bath time to lean in and say thank you for a simple daily task that I will always take on for us, but didn’t realize he even noticed until that moment. And at the same time this is when I praise my son for the progress he has made with reading. Hearing that praise, being affirmed in your efforts by someone you admire and aim for their approval, it can take you far, it can lift you up, it can fuel your need to keep going.
Have you ever been complimented by a stranger? Even as silly as the women working out next to you, mentioning she likes your top? That type of acknowledgement, approval or recognition can also give us a boost. When someone you don’t know takes time to recognize you, your actions, your efforts out of the crowd and ever spinning world, it can remind us of how much we matter and impact others. My mother and I took the three big boys to a musical a few weeks ago and the woman behind us complimented my boys and their good behavior and true engagement and excitement. She didn’t have to do that, but she did, she took a moment to recognize the good and it brought me so much joy. This interaction reminded me that even though I was worried the entire time that they were being too loud or disturbing others, they really weren’t and I’m doing a good job as a mother, raising these boys to be well-mannered and well-rounded. Sometimes the affirmation that we need most comes out of nowhere and from an unfamiliar face.
The form of approval and recognition that is most impactful is when a third party is involved. Do you know what I mean? When at the beginning of a school year, a parent approaches you and says my son is so excited to have you for a teacher because his sister still talks about the impact you made on her as a writer and person. When a dear friend of mine shares that her colleague is inspired by what I write on my blog and can tell what a good person I am from what I share. When a teacher at my husband’s school joins Barre3 and tells him it’s all because of my posts and how much I love it. Or when your boss pops into your classroom and says I heard you were doing great things in here, one of your students shared about this project you were working on, I had to come up and see for myself. That third party affirmation is impactful; when someone else goes out of their way to share the good that others are saying about you. That truly means something.
We know that it means so much to others when we affirm their greatness, when we compliment their progress, or when we point out exactly why they shine and why they matter to us…so why don’t we do this more often?
It’s easy to get lost in the routine, to get swept up in the to-do list. It makes sense when we rush through life and lose that youthful observant nature. But how impactful when we take a moment to watch, to see and then to comment on the good. A few months ago I wrote a post titled “Dear Parker…” This was a letter to my first born son. In it I shared all of the things that I love about him and in a way apologized if I haven’t been everything that he needs. I read it to him and he cried, then I cried. He told me it was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to him. I was proud at first and then as I reflected, upset with myself. I am someone he looks up to, someone he aims to please, and he wasn’t sure if he was doing that, he didn’t know if he was really achieving, because I wasn’t affirming him in his choices. The things I wrote in my letter I feel every day about Parker - pride, joy, and appreciation - but some how he didn’t know that. I need to be better.
I can also be better about being mindful and attentive and then not afraid to share the good that I see. I really am an introvert. I’m not good in large social settings and feel myself duck my head when I’m out and about. I know how rewarding it feels when I stranger compliments me on my hair color, or when they notice how patient my children are being in the grocery check-out line. I know the flush of good feelings when someone you don’t know pauses to say thank you, or a new follower comments on one of your posts. I appreciate people taking a moment to praise me for my efforts and to compliment my successes. I can do this for others, we all can. Even though I shy away from these types of interactions, mainly because of my own insecurities, I need to recognize when a mom like myself if doing an amazing job, when a co-worker I don’t talk to often is totally knocking it out the park, when a student who I don’t have in class is being kind to others. I need to speak up and say “thank you” “you are doing a wonderful job” “you inspire me to be better.” It will go a long way for that person.
The final piece to the puzzle is that third party recognition. When you hear good things - share it! Tell your neighbor that a friend who lives nearby is so impressed with their garden. Remind the preschool teacher of what an amazing job she does every day, by sharing how other moms have commented to you how impressed they are with her and her patience and kindness. Don’t hesitate to tell a colleague that a student was boosting to you about the awesome lesson they just had in his classroom and how much energy they had because they were truly inspired. That pat on the back, that additional reinforcement because they heard it from someone else, somehow means so much more. Probably because it takes effort to hear those words and how reassuring when we do.
Believing in yourself, acknowledging your self-worth, reminding yourself daily of your journey and the progress you have made is essential. I tell myself constantly - you are enough. Those affirmations solidify our goals, our beliefs, our hard work. Hearing that from others - someone you admire, a stranger, or through the grapevine - brings about just as much fulfillment. We need to be reminded of the impact we make on this world, don’t be afraid to be that voice and reassurance for someone else.