You’ve probably seen affirmations floating around on Instagram. Pinterest, or self-esteem books.
They’re supposed to be statements that are self-comforting and self-praising… like:
I love and accept myself exactly as I am.
I am a lovable person.
I bring brightness to the world.
I am focused, persistent, and will never quit.
I am beautiful and everybody loves me.
I do not fear the fire… I am the fire!
I rejoice in the love I encounter every day.
I experience love wherever I go.
I gotta say, I am not about that.
Now, let me be clear—If you are a fan of positive affirmations, keep being a fan.
In no way am I trying to sway anyone away from a tool that helps them find motivation or success. On the contrary.
But, if you are someone who thinks about reading the affirmations above out loud and says “ha!” (like me), then I want you to know you aren’t alone, and that there’s nothing wrong with you, either.
As a concept, affirmations makes sense.
Positive statements to challenge and overcome negative thoughts.
Most of us have negative thoughts that keep us from showing up the way we intend (true), and the idea is that if we deliberately oppose the thought, the “effect” can be just as powerful.
Now, again, I’m not arguing against the practice of affirmations, or the science that’s backed it—I’m simply saying if you say those lines above and it doesn’t sit right with you, that’s okay.
It turns out, there’s science to back the idea that affirmations WON’T work for everyone, too.
Some studies have shown that for some people, these affirmations actually backfire and can make people feel worse, rather than better.
For some people, repeating a statement that feels so far from true can actually give them more reason to dislike themselves.
I don’t know if I feel “worse” reading or reciting these positive affirmations, but I definitely don’t feel better.
If anything, I feel questionable, or just downright disconnected from myself.
But I do value the idea of ridding myself of these negative thoughts, so is there a way to win?
I think yes.
Let me explain—I try to visit my own limiting beliefs regularly. You know, those negative self-beliefs that come from that little (and sometimes big) Dark Side voice within? Some of the beliefs that pop up for me are:
“You are flawed—something is wrong with you.”
“You’re not relatable enough.”
“You’re running out of time.”
We all have limiting beliefs, and they undoubtedly hold us back. But they are BELIEFS, not truths.
An “affirmation” would counter these limiting beliefs with something like this:
“You are perfect and amazing.”
“You are so relatable and everyone loves you!”
“You have all the time in the world!”
When I read those, I think “that’s a lie, and I know it.” And they actually are lies, and I wouldn’t be human if they were true. So while that hyperbolic positivity may work for some, it just doesn’t resonate with me…
Instead, I try to find a reasonable and more productive belief:
“You are unique, and it serves you.”
“You are relatable to the people who matter.”
“You are right where you should be.”
These are things I can buy into… they may not feel true in every passing moment, but I can find enough of a connection (and know they serve me) that I can trust them, rather than submitting to a limiting belief.
So, if you struggle with limiting beliefs (AKA if you’re human), and positive affirmations don’t do it for you—don’t use them!
Instead of reading through affirmations and feeling worse about yourself and less connected, attack your own limiting beliefs head on.
What are they?
Can you rewrite that limiting belief to be a constructive andattainable truth?
I do believe we can train our brains to think more positively—but the way that happens is going to be different for everyone.