There is a lot of power in the words we say. Over the last few years, there has been an increase in the popularity of using affirmations and a focus on their wellness benefits. According to studies, when you practice positive affirmations, it opens up certain neural pathways. This means that it can impact parts of your brain that help combat negative thoughts and heighten confidence. Incorporating positive affirmations into your daily routine can have a huge effect on you.
Jazmyn Simon and Dulé Hill know this because it’s something they practice with their kids. Their love for it led the couple to launch a new project that will help other families create space for positive affirmations too. Hill, an Emmy-nominated actor currently starring on ABC’s reimagining of The Wonder Years, and Simon, who previously starred on HBO’s Ballers and is author of the children’s book Most Perfect You, married in 2018. Together, they share two children. The impact of the quarantine measures on their eldest child early in the pandemic inspired this new work.
“It was June of 2020 and we were all on lockdown. We watched the news all day and my children were 15 and 1 at the time. I remember Dulé suggesting that we should check on [our daughter] Kennedy to see how she’s doing, mentally,” Simon recalls. “I called Kennedy upstairs and asked her ‘How are you feeling?’ She told us that she was feeling fine. But Dulé responded that fine isn’t a feeling. So, we asked again. Kennedy burst into tears.”
She continued, “As we started to have a deeper conversation about everything, I looked at Kennedy and Dulé. I said, ‘I don’t want kids that are watching TV to think that this is their life or this is a reflection of them. Because it is not. I want them to know about the ultimate best of themselves. So, we need to write a book.’”
Repeat After Me: Big Things To Say Every Day is a new picture book that delivers inspirational messages reminding children of how special they are. The book is a gorgeously illustrated one filled with affirmations. Children are reminded that they are cherished, deserving, and gifted.
“I don’t specifically recall affirmations growing up. But I do remember both of my parents instilling in me that I can be all that I can be. Also, that I am wonderfully made exactly as I am,” Hill says. “I wasn’t really aware of the power of affirmations in that way until I became part of Jazmyn and Kennedy’s life.”
“I didn’t have anyone in my life who spoke affirmations for me growing up,” Simon adds. “I think there’s a cultural difference because Dulé’s parents are from Jamaica. They come from a country that is full of Black people. Black people are the norm and they see themselves differently compared to Black Americans. In America, we know we had slavery and we are direct descendants of slaves. My grandmother was born in Tennessee in the 1930s and I don’t think it was in her vernacular to say ‘I am powerful’ or ‘I am loved.’ She was just literally trying to survive. So, because I don’t think that was part of her upbringing, then it trickled down to not being part of my mother’s upbringing, nor mine.”
Simon, with support from Hill, now makes an effort to break the cycle and offers positive messaging to their children on a daily basis. Some of those messages would have the greatest influence on what’s in Repeat After Me.
“I think ‘I am enough,’ ‘I am gifted,’ ‘I am ready,’ and ‘I am capable’ are some powerful affirmations,” she shares. “In the book, we have 15 affirmations that were chosen from a list of so many more. We wanted to make sure the book was palatable for young minds to understand the words that they were ultimately going to be repeating.”
In addition to creating Repeat After Me to not only highlight beneficial messaging, the couple also found it to be an opportunity to shift the narrative of how Black fathers are seen.
“The reason why it was important to write Repeat After Me with Dulé is because we think it is really important to highlight a Black father. Black fathers get a bad rep,” she says. “I really want to point out that people think a good Black father is an exception to the rule. It’s not. It is the rule. People need to know that Black fathers are present, encouraging, open to emotions, and supportive.”
“In the media and throughout the world, there is a narrative that Black fathers are either absent or deadbeat. We hear it so often and it is completely not true. I know many Black fathers and we love and sacrifice for our children,” adds Hill. “Jazmyn and I also wanted to chip away at the notion that in order to be a man, you do not deal with emotions. This book allows that. This book can be a tool for Black fathers to connect with their children and give space for emotions to thrive.”
In addition to being for our youth and a chance to show love to Black fathers, it’s also a work that can have a positive impact on all adults, too. It uplifts everyone.
“I wanted to make sure that our book had duality. So when you are reading Repeat After Me to a child, you also think to yourself, ‘They wrote this for me too,’” Simon says. “The trick with Repeat After Me is, you have to say the affirmations in first person. So when you are reading out loud to your child saying ‘I Am,’ you are rewiring your own brain as well.”
Repeat After Me will be available for purchase on May 2 wherever books are sold.