Are there people in your life who encourage you and make you feel stronger and lifted up? Are there some who drag you down or take the wind out of your sails? In her book, Balcony People, Joyce Landor Heatherley argues there are two types of people: the evaluators and the affirmers. She suggests:
I am sure, if there were a way to view a movie and see instant replays of all the strategic change points in our lives, that we’d instantly spot the people who either broke our spirits by their critical or judgmental evaluations, or who healed us by their loving, perceptive affirmations.
To be honest, I seem to be able to remember the negative comments of evaluators faster and more clearly than the positive remarks of the affirmers. I’m not alone in this ability to recall the negative….I suspect that not far from anyone’s conscious level of thinking lies the memory of an evaluator who pulled on his or her spiked boots and stomped deliberately over our bare soul and personhood.
Do you have any of these evaluators in your life? Maybe you can recognize the voice in your head that tells you that you can’t do something. In her book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Julia Cameron calls these the censors. Maybe you have many censors, a rogue’s gallery of them.
So what do we do with these evaluators and censors to keep them from stifling our blossoming with their negative talk or opinions? Heatherley suggests leaving them in the past, even if that past was five minutes ago:
We all have the choice to replay the harmful remarks from evaluators, or we can choose to let them pass on. We can even choose to make allowances for their discouraging, destructive words. But best of all is the choice to willingly focus our minds and hearts on today’s person who is affirming us.
So who are these affirmers in our lives? Think back…
Who by one small sentence or more, has changed and lifted your opinion of yourself? Who was the person early in your life who recognized the first sparks of originality in the labyrinths of your mind and soul and saw what no one else saw? And who is the special affirmer who catches quick glimpses of the flames from the fires of your potential and tells you so? Who, by his or her words, helps you to respect and believe in your own value as a person? And who is the affirmer who encourages you to stretch and dream beyond your self-imposed limits and capabilities?
These affirmers are your Balcony People, cheering you on to blossom and stretch. These are the people whose words you must cling to when working toward your goal. These affirmers see you “by a clearer, truer light. They [are] able to peel back the layers of pretense [you] wear like like costumes for a bad play. Most of the time they [see] through and past the masks [you] hide behind. Then, once having broken through to [you] they’d get on with the business of motivating [you] to be all [you] can be.”
Affirmation is vital to our health and progress:
When others discern the good, the noble, the honorable, and the just tenets of our character (no matter how minuscule they may be) and proceed to tell us how they admire those traits, we feel visible. We begin to ‘see’ ourselves and our worth. We feel nurtured and nourished, but mostly we feel loved.
The Basement People do just the opposite. With their words they cause you to doubt and shrink. They focus on your flaws or failings. They encourage you to not try, to stay where you are, to wallow in the “murky waters of failure and discouragement.” We don’t need to linger on their words.
Who is in your Balcony? Who cheers you on and sees your unique worth? Who do you admire in history for their accomplishments or moral victories?
When you struggle, picture these people, your Balcony People. Remember their words. Let their affirmations encourage and comfort you in defeat and to keep pressing onward in your goals.
You are meant to blossom not wither. You are meant to shine not lurk in the shadows.
You are meant to soar.