Why Should I do Self-affirmations?
You have probably seen an infographic on Instagram with some positive self-affirmations. You may think they are cheesy or baseless or maybe they seem awkward or uncomfortable to do, maybe it’s hard to think about positive things for yourself, but there is power in self-affirmations. “Self-affirmation theory” states that people can cope with threats to perceive self-competence with a coping skill of self-affirmations that reflect sources of self-worth such as core values. Let’s say I knock my dinner plate off the counter and it shatters on the floor. I may internalize this and say to myself, “I can’t do anything right”, but self-affirmation theory says that we can cope with this thought by reminding ourselves about a core value, such as “I am not perfect and I’m allowed to make mistakes”. That statement could reflect my core value of believing that perfection is something that cannot be achieved.
Someone in your life may have told you that the way you speak to yourself matters, and self-affirmations are evidence of that. You remember how that one kid in middle school might have told you that your toes were big and for a while you always wore closed toed shoes because you were self-conscious? By the same token things that we say to ourselves, especially repeatedly can impact the way that we view ourselves, as well as act, and decrease the negative impact of experiences or internal narratives that hurt our self-confidence. We so easily give out compliments to others, while criticizing ourselves. We deserve the same type of praise we give others.
So if affirmations do have scientific backing. A study done by the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal used MRI to observe how practicing self-affirmations activates our reward system in our brain. By saying “I will earn that promotion” our brain lights up as if we are renting a prize or eating a favorite snack. It has a beneficial impact on the areas of your brain that deal with positive emotions. The verbal practice of self-affirmations can positively impact our internal brain processes. These findings bring to light the importance of how we speak to ourselves.
How we speak to ourselves teaches our brain a new way to think about the world. Repeating phrases helps us be more aware of those topics, and notice more signs of that in our life. For example, when someone tells you to think about a blue car when you’re driving, all of a sudden it seems like blue cars start popping out of everywhere. In reality, there’s no more blue cars on the road than there was before that person told you to think about a blue car, but now that you’re thinking about them you see so many more of them. If I wake up every day, and say to myself “I am safe” as my day goes on I will find evidence that I am safe, like having a safe trip to work in the morning, or not waking up sick. I’ll notice these things more because I’ve chosen to think more about how I am safe.
If you’ve gotten this far and want to try affirmations but don’t know where to start, the best thing to do is make your affirmations specific. Try to make them unique for you, encompassing things in your daily life. Saying them in front of a mirror is also a great exercise. Looking at yourself when you say them can be uncomfortable or vulnerable at first but it’s a way to get great practice at being more open with ourselves. If you’re having trouble thinking of positive things you would like to say to yourself, a good place to start is thinking about the negative thoughts that you may have about yourself or your surroundings that come up during the day. When you identify a thought, try to rephrase that thought to neutralize or make the message positive. For example, my inner dialogue may tell me several times a day that “I can’t do anything right”. I could neutralize this statement by saying “I am allowed to make mistakes” or even make it more positive by saying “I am capable”. Below are some examples of some general self-affirmations:
- I believe in myself, and trust myself.
- I am confident and capable at what I do.
- I don’t judge myself;
- I accept and love myself, thoroughly and completely.
- My body is amazing just the way it is, and I accept myself this way.
- My goals and desires are as worthwhile as everybody else’s.
- I love who I am becoming.
- I am fine with who I am.
- I deserve to see myself as amazing
- I forgive others for sometimes doing the wrong thing and I forgive myself when I do the same.
- This is just one moment in time
- I am safe
- This moment in my life does not define who I am
- my life has value and meaning
- I do not rely on others judgment for acceptance
- I choose to release negative feelings and thoughts about myself
- There is nothing wrong with me because I feel sad
- I am deserving of self-care
- Smile and breathe
- This feeling will pass
If this blog resonated with you, and you are looking for more support with your mental wellness, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.
Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2016 Apr; 11(4): 621–629. Published online 2015 Nov 5. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsv136