There’s a better way to use positive affirmations to make them more effective.
Your self-talk is vitally important to how you feel about yourself. One way to improve your self-talk is through the use of positive affirmations. However, there’s a negative side to positive affirmations: when you keep telling yourself things that you don’t believe.
Here are some examples of popular positive affirmations:
- All is well in my world.
- I’m a money magnet.
- Others recognize my worth.
- Everyone I encounter has my best interests at heart.
- My life gets better each day.
- I’m thriving at work.
- My business is growing and prospering.
- I can achieve greatness.
- I can do anything I set my mind to.
- Everything I want also wants me.
The problem with these affirmations is that a lot of people will repeat them, while a little voice inside their head keeps insisting that these things just aren’t true. There’s a 2009 study which argues that, for this reason, positive affirmations can be harmful.
Canadian researcher Dr. Joanne Wood and her team at the University of Waterloo published a study in the Journal of Psychological Science which states the following:
“Two experiments showed that among participants with low self-esteem, those who repeated a positive self-statement (“I’m a lovable person”) or who focused on how that statement was true felt worse than those who did not repeat the statement or who focused on how it was both true and not true.”
Based on this study, and other observations I’ve made about affirmations throughout the years, I came up with what I consider to be a much better way to use positive affirmations. You’ll discover my six-step process for using positive affirmations, below.
My Process For Using Positive Affirmations, In a Nuthshell
The six-step process that I recommend for using positive affirmations is the following:
- Step One. Affirm the Reality You Want for Yourself in Any Given Life Area
- Step Two. Find Evidence to Back Up Your Affirmations
- Step Three. Acknowledge Your Doubts About the Affirmations
- Step Four. Identify Action Steps to Improve the Situation
- Step Five. Act!
- Step Six. Neutralize the Affirmations
There’s more on this methodology, and how you can start applying it in your life right away, in the steps that follow.
Step One. Affirm the Reality You Want for Yourself in Any Given Life Area
The first step is to choose an area of your life and come up with a list of positive affirmations that reflect the reality that you want for yourself in that life area. As an example, let’s choose the area of personal development. More specifically, let’s choose the topic of self-esteem.
Here are some positive affirmations you could choose for the reality that you want for yourself when it comes to self-esteem:
- I have high self-efficacy and believe I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
- I love the way I look.
- I respect myself.
- I have high self-worth.
Step Two. Find Evidence to Back Up Your Affirmations
By asking yourself how each affirmation is true, you’ll be searching for evidence that what you’re affirming reflects reality, even if it’s just to a small degree. You’ll also be giving yourself a mood boost.
For the affirmations that we listed in step one above, you could ask yourself questions like the following:
- What are some of the goals I’ve been able to achieve in the past?
- What do I like most about the way I look?
- When have I stood up for myself? When have I kept my word to myself?
- What are some examples of the good that I do in the world?
Step Three. Acknowledge Your Doubts About the Affirmations
In this step you’re going to be honest with yourself and admit that you don’t think that the affirmations that you came up with in the first step are entirely true. Ask yourself questions like the following:
- What goal am I working on that I’m doubtful I can achieve?
- What do I feel I need to improve about my appearance?
- How am I not showing myself respect? Am I allowing others to talk me into doing things I don’t want to do? Do I speak negatively about myself to others?
- Under what circumstances do I feel that I’m coming up short?
Step Four. Identify Action Steps to Improve the Situation
Here’s something that’s usually missing from the process of repeating positive affirmations to yourself: coming up with action steps to make the reality that you’re affirming come to be.
Once you’ve identified how you doubt that the affirmations you’re saying to yourself are true, ask yourself how you can improve so that the affirmations become more aligned with reality. You can ask yourself questions like the following:
- How can I modify this goal to make it more likely that I’ll be able to achieve it? Who do I know—that’s a lot like me— who’s been able to achieve a similar goal in the past? Who can I talk to who will encourage me to pursue this goal and help persuade me that I can achieve it?
- How can I lose twenty pounds? What steps can I take to improve my personal hygiene?
- What are my values? How can I make sure that I stick to those values even when I’m under pressure from others to act contrary to them?
- What skills do I need to acquire? How can I practice those skills so I can gain mastery in them?
Step Five. Act!
The fifth step is to take action. Look at the answers that you came up with for the previous step, and act based on those answers. Do the following:
- Modify the goal that you’re working on so that it’s easier to achieve.
- Learn to cook seven healthy, delicious meals. Start walking around the block for twenty minutes every morning before work.
- Identify your values and come up with a strategy for sticking to those values.
- Choose a skill that you need to acquire, learn the skill, and then practice it until you reach a level of mastery that you’re comfortable with.
Step Six. Neutralize the Affirmations
The last step of the process for making positive affirmations more effective is to neutralize the affirmations to make sure that you believe them when you repeat them to yourself. Here are the affirmations that we came up with at the very start of this process, in a neutralized form:
- I know I can increase my self-efficacy if I work at it, and that’s what I’m doing.
- I’m taking steps to appreciate the way I look more and more.
- I’m taking care to show myself more respect.
- My self-worth grows as I make an effort to increase the positive impact I have on the projects I’m working on, on those around me, and on the world at large.
Since all of these neutral affirmations are true, you should be able to get yourself to believe them when you repeat them to yourself.
What do you think of my six-step process for using positive affirmations more effectively? I hope that you find it to be as useful as I have. Live your best life by making better use of positive affirmations.
- 15 Self-Care Practices for Well-Being
- 17 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself
- How to Fall In Love With Yourself
- How to Practice Self-Compassion: Self-Compassion Strategies and Exercises
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “Daring to Live Fully” by clicking here and get free updates.