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OPINION

TRUE STORIES — Valentine’s Day affirmation celebration

J.T. Knoll
J.T. Knoll

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

So said Stuart Smalley, the fictional character created and performed by Al Franken on Saturday Night Live in the 1990s.

With his perfectly coiffed beach-blonde hair, and wearing a yellow polo shirt under a powder blue cardigan, he satirized the affirmations and self-help trend that was sweeping the country.

He was a hoot.

Most don’t know that the reality and pain of addiction inspired Franken to create Stuart Smalley, as the idea came from attending Al-Anon 12-Step meetings in support of his wife, who was battling alcoholism at the time.

Franken’s hilarious satire notwithstanding, self-affirmations — which were first popularized in the 1920s — have been shown to protect against the damaging effects of stress, improve problem solving, and aid self-control. Studies have also shown them to make us more receptive to acknowledging our mistakes as well as lower our fears of social rejection.

The technique is not meant, though, to make a person self-centered, selfish, and withholding; quite the opposite. The more grounded and positive we feel about ourselves, the more generous of spirit and service-oriented we become. In short, more loving.

Which brings me to tomorrow, Valentine’s Day, the celebration of love often marked by sharing poetry, gifts, cards, and flowers. Sometimes romantic, candlelit dinners out of town.

It’s also a day lots of people acknowledge, affirm and “share the love” with friends, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, bosses, and secretaries, etc.

But do we carry it far enough? I’m speaking here about being more “affirming” to our county and city administrators and employees; the men who pick up our trash; the postal service employees; the waitress at the our favorite restaurant; our priest or minister; our political leaders; our bank teller; our mechanic, the utilities workers (especially the ones who brave the heat and cold to keep us comfortable), etc.

The list is endless. Here’s a few more options I came up with — or found online:

• Call a nurse and/or your doctor and affirm their dedication during the coronavirus pandemic.

• Send an anonymous card to a local nursing home commending them for their work.

• Take time to affirm someone you know who is doing something risky (like going back to school or changing jobs).

• Commend a working parent you know that is sacrificing for his/her children in these trying times.

• If you know someone who is chronically ill, take time to affirm their endurance, patience, and determination.

• Affirm a person you know who solves problems without waiting to be asked, commending their initiative.

• Next time a bias or error of yours is brought to your attention, not only own it, but affirm the person who brought it to you for their alertness and thoroughness in catching it. (Then, as Stuart Smalley might say, you can “Trace it, face it, and erase it.”)

• When someone passes along a good idea, or helps you change your mind about an issue, affirm their persuasiveness and communication skills.

• Getting back to Valentine’s Day, rather than give your spouse or main squeeze a store bought card (or in addition to it if you already purchased one), spend some time studying the phrasing in the cards in the card section (or online), and then take time to make and compose your own.

If you find it too difficult to do this kind of affirming of others, Stuart Smalley would likely tell you, “That’s just ‘stinkin thinkin.’ You need a ‘checkup from the neckup.’”

And then he’d go on to diagnose the problem as being that you’re not getting enough affirmation to feel well grounded and positive about yourself "… and that’s … okay."

After which he would suggest you to just go to your bathroom or dresser mirror, look lovingly at your reflection and say, "I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

If you’d like to see how it’s done, there’s a classic video of Stuart instructing Michael Jordan on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNx_gU57gQ4

J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and eulogist. He also operates Knoll Training & Consulting in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net