How Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life
Your mindset is your responsibility.
It’s probably not the first time you’ve heard of positive affirmations, gen Z have popularised the term along with ‘manifesting’ and ‘self-growth’. But have you actually tried them? The idea of speaking good things about yourself might seem a little bizarre and awkward, but the way you talk to yourself matters, and it can be powerful.
Positive affirmations are phrases or statements used to challenge negative thoughts. They are though to build confidence and unlock your true potential. The simple science behind positive affirmations is rooted in self-affirmation theory put forth by Steele (1988).
Positive affirmations have the power to alter our mindset. The more positive we think and practice, the more positive our surroundings become because we learn to look for the positives. This optimism is a useful guide when we’re faced with difficult situations and when self-doubt kicks in. If we start to frequently talk kinder to ourselves, we’ll start to believe it. “Affirming core values leads to increases in self-esteem, eudemonic well-being and positive attitudes towards oneself” (Düring & Jessop, 2015).
Does "I’m not good enough for this” or “I’m not confident enough to do that” ring any bells? These negative thoughts are common! We tend to talk ourselves down rather than cheerleading ourselves on - that’s human nature. Women who are confident and sure of themselves are often labelled ‘bossy’ or ‘arrogant’ because society has told us to shrink. But positive affirmations can be used to challenge this narrative and unlock our true potential, which is lying there just below the surface.
Some practicers of positive affirmations believe that we actually speak them into existence by programming our mind into believing the concept. When we fear something we tend to think of the worst possible outcomes (however unlikely they are) which only serve to feed our fears but by training your mind to overcome the fear, or simply ignore it, we can affirm ourselves. For example, by saying “I will get this promotion because I am good enough for it” rather than worrying about not getting the promotion - you are likely to be successful because you’ll be more confident.
It’s common to automatically think of all our flaws, especially under pressure or when we’re feeling anxious. But taking a few minutes to speak positively about ourselves, i.e. what we’re good at can give us the confidence boost we need. Knowing our value can also be good for our overall mental health and well-being. A 2020 study of 37 US students found that receiving virtual positive affirmations twice a week increased students well-being and self-esteem.
Positive affirmations are about the now. They teach you to react and combat negative intrusive thoughts the moment they enter your brain. With practice, you will always be equipped with a tool kit of confidence, kindness and optimism. Start with phrases like ‘I am' or ‘I can’ and depending on what you need that day, fill in the gaps.
If you’re feeling insecure about your body today try saying something along the lines of “my body kept me alive today. It took care of me and I will take care of it too” by acknowledging how amazing your body is or perhaps you spend some time with the mirror, appreciating things that you like about yourself and speaking it aloud, like you would to your friend or daughter.
Or, if you’re nervous about an upcoming test and you don’t feel like you’re good enough, try saying “I have all of the knowledge within myself to pass”. Repeat it if you need to.
Louise Hay, renowned author of You Can Heal Your Own Life (1984) believes that you have the power to change your mindset and the way you think about yourself. But to get the most of this experience, you must make an active effort each day. Think of positive affirmations as seeds. They need to be nurtured in order to grow and blossom: they need sunshine, water and healthy soil. The more you care for your seeds, the quicker, bigger and prettier they’ll grow.
thread of positive affirmations, doing this for myself but hoping it will help someone else as well 🤍— roise (@ROSlEMXY) November 17, 2020
We all have it within ourselves, we’ve just never been taught how to speak to ourself and why it matters. Perhaps if we did, there would be less cases of eating disorders and depression.