Hello, my dear.✨

Happy New year! I hope 2021 has been reasonably good to you so far.🤗

First of all, here's a quick heads up about Bookshlf, a new platform I discovered recently and love. It's a place for digital content curation: 

I collected and organized all recent and past links, videos, podcasts, websites, etc. I found valuable and created shelves named Self-Awareness; Social and Global Issues; Creativity; Career, Work- and Entrepreneurship; Relationships and Human Connection; Spirituality, and many more. 

If you enjoy the links and resources I share at the end of my letters I invite you to check out my Bookshlf too, as I added all recommended articles from previous letters (and more) to my shelves.


Now, on to the Self-Letter...

I was always skeptical about positive affirmations. You know, those phrases you're supposed to repeat so you can manifest them into reality:

Every day, I'm feeling better and better.
I'm good enough.
I love my body.
I've been given endless talents which I begin to utilize today.
A river of compassion washes away my anger and replaces it with love.

Ugh, I don't know about you but just reading these makes me feel a little worse - especially on days I don't radiate ~positive vibes~ at all.

Turns out, it wasn't just my intuition that struggled with the notion: As I learned from Oliver Burkeman's refreshing book The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking there's a study that tested the effectiveness of these affirmations. I assumed even though they're cheesy they're sure harmless and the problem is probably with me, as in I'm too cynical to reap the benefits.

Joanne Wood, the psychologist who conducted the study, however, already reckoned positive affirmations might do more harm than good. In her assumption, she drew on the so-called self-comparison theory. As Burke writes,

Much as we like to hear positive messages about ourselves, [...], we crave even more strongly the sense of being a coherent, consistent self in the first place. Messages that conflict with that existing sense of self, therefore, are unsettling, and so we often reject them - even if they happen to be positive, and even if the source of the message is ourselves.

Read: If we want to reason ourselves into happiness and abundance even if what we feel is unhappiness and scarcity we'll end up unhappier, as we don't actually believe what we say, which causes us distress due to inconsistency.

The study revealed exactly what Joanne Wood reckoned: Study-participants who started out the study unhappy ended up even unhappier after exposing themselves to positive affirmations that tried to convince them of their lovability - positive thinking had made them feel worse.

What's the takeaway?

There's a reason positive affirmations and books like Rhonda Byrne's The Secret are so popular - they give us a sense of control over our lives. All we have to change is our mindset and everything will fall into place.

While this sounds reassuring it isn't true - we don't control everything that happens to us, and the idea we can fully control our thoughts and feelings is an illusion.

Instead, however, we can try to and become better at accepting and listening to our negative thoughts and feelings, and move through life in spite of them. In the end, they aren't obstacles to our "real path" but they're the path itself.

As Pema Chödrön put it in When Things Fall Apart (if you've been reading my letters for a while you know I quote this book a lot and yes, it's really that good):

"In a nontheistic state of mind, abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning. You could even put "Abandon hope" on your refrigerator door instead of more conventional aspirations like "Every day in every way I'm getting better and better".
Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That's the compassionate thing to do. That's the brave thing to do. We could smell that piece of shit; we could feel it; what is its texture, color, and shape?"

Also, along with Pema Chödrön's book I highly recommend the aforementioned The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking. It's a great science-based introduction to Buddhist and Stoic philosophy, among others, and is perfect if you want to be happy without the spiritual aspect of things.😉

Things I enjoyed in the past week:

🗞️ (Short) article: Getting Out Of a Bad State of Mind by Derek Sivers
A 5-step plan for what to do when things go down south. Another great alternative to positive affirmations.

🎧 Podcast: Addictionology with Alie Ward and addictionologist Erin Parisi
I told you last time already how much I appreciate the Ologies-podcast with Alie Ward. This episode has been an eye-opener when it comes to addiction. Even though there's addiction in my extended family and I've learned a lot about the disease, this came with many new insights.

🍿Movie: Krisha by Trey Edward Shults
I already thought Trey Edward Shults's Waves is one of the best movies ever, but Krisha is no less good. As another tragedy, it explores what addiction does to both the addict and their family.

🐦 Tweet: The Story of Humans of New York in a Twitter-thread
Almost everyone knows Humans of New York but few know the story behind it is so moving and has valuable takeaways. My favorite: "If you feel stuck, stop dwelling on the big picture. Too often we get stuck because we want to accomplish everything and we don't know the right step to take. Instead of focusing on the life arc, focus on one step at a time."

🎨 Website: Creator Stack
What a goldmine! This is a massive collection of resources for all kinds of creators, like bloggers, coaches, podcasters, etc. 


Thank you for being here.🙏

If you enjoy The Self-Letter, there are 5 ways to show your support:

1. ☕You can
buy me a coffee and boost me for the day.
2. 📩 Forward this newsletter to a friend who always tells you to think ~positive~.  Pass on this link to it. You can also screenshot it and share it on social (e.g. Instagram story). Word of mouth will always be the best way to help me and share.;

3. 👏Read and clap for
my stories on Medium;

 4. 🐦Follow me on Twitter @juliho_;

5. 📚Follow me on Bookshlf @juliahorvath.
Seeing The Self-Letter for the first time? You can subscribe here.
Copyright © 2021 Julia Horvath, All rights reserved.

My mailing address is:

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.