I am a successful blogger.
I write blog posts that attract readers.
My post about affirmations brings thousands of new engaged readers to my blog.
I write clearly and successfully about affirmations.
If I repeat these affirmations to myself several times each day, maybe meditate on them a bit, will this increase the likelihood that this blog post is read and valued by thousands of new readers?
Many people regularly practice positive affirmations as a way to boost their chances of making the affirmation a truth rooted in reality. The idea behind affirmations is that by repeating something to ourselves using our conscious mind, our unconscious mind eventually recognizes it as fact and influences our actions to bring about the desired result.
There’s lots of advice out there about how to best state your affirmations and use them to create your best life. Speak them aloud for five times three times a day. Record yourself repeating the affirmation in a confident, passionate voice, and listen to it as you fall asleep. Post sticky notes of your affirmation where you can see them. Journal, etc.
I am healthy and fit.
I have everything I need to be successful.
I attract wealth.
I am courageous.
Oh, and here’s another affirmation:
I am skeptical.
Do affirmations really work?
Or are they just lies we tell ourselves in the hopes that if we say it enough, we’ll start to believe them?
Most peeps acknowledge that you have to actually, you know, do the work and take action toward your desired goal. Affirmations alone won’t work.
Let’s assume that you repeat a positive affirmation to yourself everyday—“I make sound financial decisions. I have everything I need. I attract abundance”–with the goal of finally paying off that credit card. You also cancel cable and stop making impulse purchases at Target. With the money you save from this, you set up an auto transfer to pay down the credit card a little beyond the minimum payment each month. Eventually, you succeed and are free from the expensive grip of consumer debt. Woohoo!
But how do you measure the effectiveness of the affirmations you repeated daily? How much of your success do you owe to affirmation vs. to the spending less and savings more strategy you simultaneously enacted?
Your guess is as good as mine. I couldn’t find any scientific studies of this nature, so if you see any, please let me know.
What I did find, however, is one study (often cited) in which people were told to repeat the affirmation “I am loveable”. Participants measured as having low self-esteem actually felt worse afterward. They didn’t believe what they were saying and having to repeat the words only reinforced their low self-esteem. Those with high self-esteem, however, felt a little better.
Do affirmations not work for those who don’t believe them because they don’t believe them? “Of course, nothing happened! Your negative thoughts about affirmations overpowered any impact the positive affirmation could have had!” Hmmm…
Science may not have a lot to say about positive affirmation, but there is research about the effects of self-affirmation.
So what’s the difference?
Positive affirmation is what I described above, while self-affirmation is a confirmation of your values.
It’s the difference between making a present tense statement about yourself (a positive affirmation) and ranking, listing, or writing about your values (self-affirmation).
Studies suggest that reflecting on values that are important to you (like family, art, religion, etc.), make it easier for you to deal with stress and other “threats” like defensiveness. Self-affirmation, it seems, could help us be more resilient and feel connected.
What’s up with that? Our brains apparently dig thinking of things that we dig (like our values), and thoughts about our values help us think in a bigger picture way that reminds us what we like about ourselves. These warm fuzzies enhance our sense of self-worth and that’s what may bring the positive effects scientists see in studies.
So what’s the bottom line here?
Positive affirmations may not be as powerful or essential as some people make them seem, but they probably won’t hurt if your self-esteem is healthy. If you find affirmations motivating or part of a routine that reminds you of your goals, then go for it. Affirm away!
Other options if you feel like you need to boost your goal getting signal:
- Self-affirmation lists: write down your most important values or a list of your previous victories. It’ll help you remind you about what’s important and bolster your confidence.
- Acknowledge where you are now in your life. Instead of “I am successful…” try “I am working hard to…” or “I am making better choices to…”
- Ask “Will I?” questions. Question create an open loop your brain wants to close. Affirmative statements, on the other hand, can create conflict and turmoil if you don’t really believe what you’re saying. Questions? Less pressure. “Will I complete this blog post?” vs. “I will complete this blog post”
- Self compassion. Dudes, be cool to yourselves. The whole time I’ve been reading about affirmations, I’m struck by the idea that none of it would be necessary if we just accepted and loved ourselves as we are—flaws, imperfections, suffering, failures, and all. We could go after our goals, relentlessly take action, and make shit happen without letting internal and external crap get the best of us.
- Don’t talk shit to and about yourself. Do you say things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend? Say nicer things to yourself. And when you do, you might want to use your name instead of “I”.
Do you practice positive affirmations? What has your experience been with them? Tell me cuz even though I have zero desire to pick up this habit, I’m totally curious about yours. Bring on the anecdotal evidence!