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Affirmations You May Have Missed Hearing

By Arlene Harder, MA, MFT, Resident of Villa Gardens

When we were raising our children, we did the best we knew how. However, it may not have been enough to help them become the resourceful, resilient, and compassionate adults we wanted them to be.

Why didn’t we know better? One of the main reasons is that we ourselves hadn’t been given the encouragement and support we needed when we were growing up. Of course, our parents undoubtedly thought they were being supportive and loving. However, they were brought up in another era, with its own set of standards for child-raising and had their own personalities and temperaments.

Clearly, the temperament and personality of parent and child can have an important impact on how a child absorbs what parents want to teach their children. For example, a strong-willed and high-energy child can be a challenge for a gentle, even-going parent. Likewise, someone who approaches the world with boisterous intensity and loves sports may find it difficult to relate to a quiet child who has no interest in physical activities in such a way that the child can feel accepted.

What can you do now, at this stage of your life (whatever stage that may be), to develop the high self-esteem and high self-confidence that you would like? Begin by reading the affirmations below as a guide to ”growing up again,” the title of a book by Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson, which I used as inspiration for some of the affirmation I suggest for each stage.

As you read these affirmations of encouragement that are needed at different stages of growth, you may find that they can now experience childhood in a more positive way than you had when you were growing up.

And, if you are parenting young children and want to know what your child needs to hear from you today, these affirmations can be a good reminder of what you may have forgotten or were never taught.

Setting the Stage for Reparenting Yourself

As you read the affirmations in the sections below, imagine you can actually hear the kind and encouraging words from caregivers.

Notice how, each time you reach a new stage, that you develop a little more of the skills necessary for being an adult in a complex and changing world. And you may also notice that by developing some of the strengths you may have missed developing earlier, that you are also better able to express the finest qualities of being human.

If you would find it difficult to imagine your parents as the caregivers saying the affirmations in each stage, you may want to imagine that the people speaking these words are someone else. It may be a person who has been supportive of you at some time in your life. Or you might even imagine it is your adult self that is saying these things to you.

Notice which affirmations you would like to put into action as you more confidently navigate the paths on which you travel.

To learn more about what skills are needed at each of the stages below, read Eric Erickson’s Stages of Growth. You will notice that I don’t strictly follow his stages, but they are comparable.

  1. Stage One: Affirmations for Being and Trust
    Between birth and six months of age
  2. Stage Two: Affirmations for Doing Things
    Between six month and eighteen months
  3. Stage Three: Affirmations for Thinking and Feeling
    Between eighteen months and three years
  4. Stage Four: Affirmations for Power and Identity
    Between three years and six years
  5. Stage Five: Affirmations for Structure and Skill
    Between six years and thirteen years
  6. Stage Six: Affirmations for Separation, Sexuality, and Independence
    Between thirteen years and eighteen years
  7. Stage Seven: Affirmations for Creativity, Intimacy, and Interdependence
    Between eighteen years and sixty-five years
  8. Stage Eight: Reflecting on Our Lives
    Between sixty-five years and the end of life

Stage One: Affirmations for Being and Trust

Between Birth and Six Months

To experience childhood from a different perspective than you may have had when you were growing up, begin by imagining you’re a very little baby, sometime between birth and six months. You have just had a bath and have been fed, so you are warm and comfortable. You are being held in the kind arms of a loving person who may, or may not, be one of your parents. As that person gently holds you, he or she touches your fingers, smiles and hums a simple tune. You can sense, through the way you are held, that this person is kind and trustworthy. Notice how wonderful it feels to be held and loved by a special person.

The person holding you wants you to know that you are welcome in this family and that there is nothing you must do to earn your right to be in this world. This person is saying something to you that you do not understand directly, but the meaning of the words is conveyed clearly in the way your needs are met and you are gently cared for. So imagine now that the person says to you:

We’re glad you’re here because this is where you belong.

We love having you near us.

We will provide what you need because your needs are important to us.

We enjoy holding you.

You can take your time to grow up at your own pace.

We will dream great dreams for you.

Notice what it feels like to be loved and cared for in this way.

Feel how wonderful it is to hear these words of encouragement, these affirmations for being and trust that are important for every small baby—and for everyone else as well.

Stage Two: Affirmations for Doing Things

Between six month and eighteen months

Imagine now that you are between the ages of six months and eighteen months. Perhaps you’re sitting on the floor playing with toys when a ball with a rattle inside rolls out of your reach. You crawl after it and pick it up with delight.

You explore it in your mouth to get a taste of it. You hold it in your hand to see what it feels like. You shake it to hear the noise and squeal with delight. It’s a lot of fun exploring your world.

Then you hear the people who are taking care of you saying something. Again, you aren’t sure exactly what the words mean, but you feel good when they say:

We love you when you are active and also when you are quiet.

When you explore and experiment, we will support and protect you.

As you explore, you can use all of your senses and learn about things in as many ways as possible.

We enjoy watching the way in which you are interested in everything.

We enjoy watching you learn.

Feel how wonderful it is to experience their love and to hear these words of encouragement, these affirmations for doing things that are important for every child from six to eighteen months—and for everyone else as well.

Stage Three: Affirmations for Thinking and Feeling

Between eighteen months and three years

Now it is time to imagine that you are a little older, somewhere between eighteen months and three years. You are again playing on the floor, this time building a house out of blocks. Your idea of what you want your house to look like may not be the same as someone else would choose to build it, but you have in your mind the way it should fit together. At first you can’t get the blocks to stand the way you want them to and you are very frustrated.

Your parents come over and try to help you, but you say, “No. I do it myself.” Then you continue working until you’ve completed the building project the way you want it. As you experience what this would be like for you as a little child, notice how it feels to have an idea of what you want to build and then to begin building it.

Your parents want to encourage your efforts and so they say such things as:

We're glad when you think for yourself.

You can discover for yourself what you need.

You can learn to understand your feelings.

It's okay to be angry and frustrated, but we won't let you hurt yourself or others.

We do not mind if you say "no." You can test limits as much as you need to.

We love you very much.

Feel how wonderful it is to experience their love and to hear these words of encouragement, these affirmations about thinking and feeling that are important for every child eighteen months to three years of age—and for everyone else as well.

Stage Four: Affirmations for Power and Identity

Between three years and six years

Imagine now that you are a young child somewhere between three and six years of age and it is summer. You're playing with a friend in your backyard. There is a sandbox and several toys are lying both inside and outside of the box. You each have a shovel and you each have different ideas of how you should construct a town in the sand. Finally, after much discussion, you decide to each take a half of the sandbox and begin assembling various toys in a way that keeps you both happily occupied for a long time.

After you have been playing for a while, you and your friend come inside to have a cool drink and your parents, who have been watching you, want to encourage your sense of personal power and identity and so they tell you:

We enjoy having you explore who you are and finding out who other people are.

You can feel powerful and capable and still ask for help when you want it.

You can learn that behavior has consequences.

You can imagine things without being afraid they will come true.

All of your feelings are okay with us.

You can become separate from us and we will continue to love you.

Feel how wonderful it is to feel their love and to hear these words of encouragement, these affirmations for power and identity that are important for children three to six years of age—and for everyone else as well.

Stage Five: Affirmations for Structure and Skill

Between six years and thirteen years

To continue building a strong sense of self, imagine you are now somewhere between six and thirteen years of age, and you’re about to play a game with some friends on the playground after school. There is a big discussion about what the rules of the game will be. What happens when you take part in that discussion? Notice what it’s like to discover the need for rules and for structure in order to play the game with others.

Your caregivers realize that you need to learn about structure, the need for rules and the freedom that comes from having appropriate and relevant rules. They also know you need to ask lots of questions in order to gather information for many different skills you are developing. Sometimes you challenge your parents’ values, arguing and hassling with them, but they are able to affirm you by assuring you that:

Therefore, although sometimes you challenge your parents’ values, arguing and hassling with them, they are able to affirm you by assuring you that:

You can learn from your mistakes.

You can trust your feelings to help you decide what you want to do.

You can learn the rules that help you live with others.

You can discover what works best for you and you can argue with us.

We love you even when we disagree, for your opinion counts.

Feel how wonderful it is to experience their love and to hear these words of encouragement, these affirmations for structure and skill that are important for six- to twelve-year-olds—and for everyone else as well.

Stage Six: Affirmations for Separation, Sexuality, and Independence

Between thirteen years and eighteen years

Finally, imagine you are now in the last stage of childhood development, somewhere between the ages of thirteen and eighteen.

Perhaps you can see yourself standing in the hallway of the school and talking with your friends. You may be listening to music or playing music. You may be working on a school project with other students. Whatever scene you choose, imagine you enjoy being with your friends, feeling yourself as a teenager, growing into the adult you will become.

When you come home from your activity, you are talking with your parents and they encourage you to learn whatever you need to learn so that you can be an independent, successful individual. Thus, they tell you in various ways:

We enjoy having you develop your own interests, even if they are not ones we share.

You can learn how to live independently from us.

You can be responsible for your own needs, feelings and behaviors and still ask for our support.

You can be responsible with others in friendship, nurturing, and intimacy.

We look forward to knowing you as an adult and our love is always with you.

Feel how wonderful it is to experience their love and to hear these words of encouragement, these affirmations for separation, sexuality and independence that are important for teenagers—and for everyone else as well.

Stage Seven: Affirmations for Creativity, Intimacy, and Independence

Between eighteen years and sixty-five years

After you’ve survived childhood with all the experiences and traumas that are part of it, and when your parents no longer have responsibility for you, you enter a stage of where you have long wanted to be—certain you will be able to navigate the road ahead.

However, you soon realize that it isn’t as easy as you imagined. The uneven path on which you find yourself may require new skills to help you reach your goals, raise a family, find meaningful work, develop new friendships, participate in the creation of social and political groups, and all the other responsibilities that come with this stage of life—adulthood.

Incidentally, it is during this stage that people often find they are ready to forgive their parents for not being able to give them the kind of support and encouragement they needed. They are ready to live without blaming their parents for their problems today.

What affirmations will help you navigate this middle part of life?

You may want to begin by looking at the quotations below and noticing which ones most resonate for you—and then find a way to remember them as you go through your day.

You will find other quotations in Quotations Worth Repeating.

“In order to profit from your mistakes, you have to get out and make some.”

—Anonymous

“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold onto.”

—Tao Te Chaing

“If you can learn to focus on what you have, you will always see that the universe is abundant; you will have more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.”

—Oprah Winfrey

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”

—Elbert Hubbard

“Behold the turtle. He only makes progress by sticking out his neck.”

—Anonymous

“To love what you do and feel that it matters—how could anything be more fun?”

—Katharine Graham

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

—Rumi

You may also want to read Your Invisible Backpack. Here you can explore ways you may be weighed down by old “dos and don’ts” you got from your parents that are no longer relevant in your life.

Stage Eight: Reflecting on Our Lives

Between sixty-five to the end of life

Those of us who are past the age of 65 or 70 discover the pleasures of this final stage of life. Most of us don’t need to work anymore. We have time for travel and leisure. We can enjoy watching our grandchildren grow without responsibility for their care, that is, unless we’ve been thrust into the role of parenting because our child is not able to care for them.

We have more time to pursue exciting hobbies and contribute to not-for-profit organizations working to address local and national issues.

Also, we may have a bucket list and things we still want to accomplish, but we generally don’t experience the intense need to achieve and prove ourselves that we did earlier.

Looking Back

Of course, we can’t help but look at where we’ve been and what we’ve done to get here. Often, we are astonished at what we’ve accomplished despite many challenges, as Morgan Freeman said in his quote on our home page. We may be rightly proud of what we’ve accomplished—especially if our successes were not easy or simple.

Also, in looking back we are astonished to see the way in which so many of our experiences have taken us in a direction we didn’t expect. Nevertheless, we now realize that all of those experiences were moving us toward doing something that gave our lives meaning and purpose.

The path that has gotten us to today was anything but straight and narrow. Rather, our lives have been like the funnel exhibits in a science museum, the kind where you drop a coin at the wide top of the funnel and watch it speed up as it goes faster and faster down to the hole at the narrow bottom.

Not infrequently, we notice that the path that got us to where we are today is the combination of opportunities we’ve been given by fortune and circumstance—as well as the opportunities we’ve created for ourselves. It is the result of how our genes and temperament helped or hindered our interaction with the world. And we remember the support we’ve been given by others, which is a major factor in any successful endeavor.

Regrets

It would be surprising, of course, if we don’t have at least some regrets, for mistakes are part of the human experience. We have all said and done things that caused difficulty, and even pain, for others and for ourselves. We all have memories of embarrassing moments we wish we could forget.

Nonetheless, it is important to remember that none of us woke up in the morning, saying, “I think I will do something today to make my life, or the life of someone else, difficult.” We simply do the best we know how. In the end, we generally come to terms with the hand we’ve been dealt.

Deciding What Our Descendants Will Inherit

There is a great deal of consideration at this stage as to what property we want our descendants to inherit. However, we also want to pass on or values. One of the ways this is being done by an increasing number of people is through what is called an “ethical will.” The term comes from the Jewish tradition of writing down the ideas and ideals we want our children and their children to remember.

In addition to more lofty goals, we might include what we’ve learned from stumbling blocks that we, ourselves, have created. They can be more difficult to overcome than any barriers the outside world has placed on our path.

Life-Long Personal Challenges

My problem has been perfectionism, which has made my life more difficult than it needed to be. It took me a very long time to becomes a “recovering perfectionist” and I still struggle.

However, if I were to pass on the crux of what I’ve learned in the form of an affirmation, I would sum it up in two sentences:

A seed growing into a bud and then becoming a flower is perfect at each stage of its development. So too, I accept myself just as I am at each moment of becoming the person I want to be.

What have you learned that you could pass on as an affirmation?

I suggest that the affirmations you can use in this stage of your life—and those you can give your offspring—are based on the lessons you’ve learned in your long life.

By answering questions such as these below, you may remind yourself of what they are:

What has been my life-long challenge and what has it taught me?

Who has supported me and whom have I supported?

What and who have I loved?

What have I learned?

If you want to dig deeper, you will find more questions in The Finest Qualities of Being Human and How to Lighten Your Invisible Backpack.

NOTE: This material by Arlene Harder, MA, MFT, may be used with attribution.