When Bobby saw me, he would rather not look at me in the eye. His head was either bowed or hanged somehow. He slouched. He breathed shallowly. He appeared so unsteady on his feet while seated. When talked to, I could hardly hear the sound of his voice.
Bobby almost stayed silent during our session. He only had a few words. Upon patient prodding, he began to respond better. When I asked what he feels or why he is silent, he told me that he feels unimportant. If possible, he just wanted not to be talked to.
Such a self manifestation on the part of Bobby betrays a serious lack of self-affirmation. A person who affirms himself instead can breathe calmly, has a good posture, an expressive look, a firm audible voice, feet firmly planted on the ground, and an open countenance.
Self-affirmation is an external expression of our inner life. It consists of verbal and non-verbal behaviors: words, physical appearance, clothing, posture, tone of voice, attitudes, eye contact, gestures, and so on. We cannot isolate self-affirmation from our communication and relating with others.
Albert Camus once wrote, “To know our selves better, we must affirm our selves more.” Affirmation of the self, an expression of our mental health or inner life, requires us to be positive, honest, and spontaneous with our life experience in community with others.
I’m reminded of Marissa, one of my patients. In response to her “gains” in therapy, she started to take her place in her family and society. She taught herself self-affirmation: daring to share her ideas and needs to her husband and children, negotiating when there is conflict, being more accepting and giving of affection and attention.
Before, she preferred to disappear into the background and not to ask for what she needs. She was always quiet and unnoticed. She confided that when she was a little girl, her mother treated her like one of their maids and forbidden her to speak in front of adults. Her repressed feelings resulted in damaged self and interferences in her relationships.
Yes, once you checked your “roots” and summon the courage to affirm your self, you’ll feel proud of your self. This can be done!