“I’m not going to get the job; I’m not skilled enough or smart enough. There are probably tons of applicants who are more qualified for this job.”
“I hate my body; I don’t feel pretty. Why can’t I look like those models on Instagram?”
“I’ve studied so hard for this exam, but I don’t feel prepared. I’m going to fail this exam.”
Many of us have experienced negative thoughts like these before. Isn’t it crazy to think how a simple negative thought can completely ruin our mood, hurt our confidence, or alter our outlook for the rest of the day? We tend to talk ourselves into believing that we’re not good enough, but negative thoughts can especially be harmful as we tend to turn those into self-fulfilling prophecies. The quality of our thoughts can shape the quality of our life. I understand that we’re only human and negative thoughts are inevitable, but just because they’re inevitable doesn’t mean that we can’t learn to control them. We can learn to catch negative thoughts before they burrow themselves deep into our heads, and counter them with positive affirmations instead.
Positive affirmations are positive statements or phrases used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts. Practicing positive affirmations can be extremely simple; pick out a phrase and repeat it to yourself over and over. Repetition is key here. When you repeat your phrase often, you start to believe in it. When you believe in it, you can then create your course of action. If you find yourself getting caught up in negative self-talk, positive affirmations can be used when you need that small boost in motivation or self-esteem. Just like how we repeat exercises to strengthen our physical health, repeating affirmations can help improve our mental health. It’s a simple exercise that can reprogram our thinking patterns and replace them with more adaptive narratives!
Benefits of Positive Affirmations
Acute and chronic stress have been shown to hinder problem-solving skills and creativity. Ever noticed how anxiety right before an exam or work evaluation tends to impair your performance? You’ve practiced or learned these skills many times before, but now you’re making mistakes that you usually don’t make.
Research suggests that self-affirmation may be an effective stress management approach. Self-affirmation theory states that an individual’s goal is to protect their self-image, and when they feel threatened they do so through affirmation of valued sources of self-worth. Positive affirmation can boost problem-solving performance when under pressure. In addition, self-affirmation can increase creativity and insight in stressed individuals. (Creswell, Dutcher, Klein, Harris, & Levine, 2013). When you’re feeling threatened, positive affirmations can add a sense of self-worth and restore your self-integrity; it can remind you that you’re not what those negative thoughts say you are. A stronger sense of self-worth makes you more likely to improve your own well-being.
How to Use Positive Affirmations
If you’re struggling with negative self-talk, take note of the thoughts that are persistently bothering you. Then choose an affirmation that is opposite of that thought and belief. If you’re still struggling to come up with an affirmation, think of a characteristic or trait that you like about yourself or think of something that you’re grateful for. Make sure that the affirmation is meaningful to you; you’ll believe in the affirmation if it carries emotional weight or if aligns with your core values. Affirmations may also be more effective when you write or speak in the present tense, as if it’s already happening. This helps you believe that the statement is true right now. Remember, no affirmation is too trivial; it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated.
For example: If you habitually think, “I’m fat; no one will ever find me pretty because of my weight,” turn this around into a positive affirmation such as, “I like my eyes and my smile; I’m enough as I am, no matter what the scale says.”
If you habitually think, “I’m not skilled or smart enough; I’m never going to advance in my career,” turn this around into a positive affirmation such as, “I’m skilled and experienced; I’ve worked hard to get to where I am now.”
There’s no rule on how often you should repeat your affirmation; repeat it as many times as you need it. And if saying it in your head isn’t enough, consider more tangible forms of affirmations by placing sticky notes on your mirrors and doors, or saving it as your phone lockscreen. Some people have even gotten creative with it by getting their affirmation tattooed!
Your affirmation will be personal to you, and specific to what you want to achieve or change. Here are a few examples that may provide some inspiration:
· I’m skilled and successful.
· I’m grateful for the job I have.
· I’m grateful for my body; it helps me experience the world to its fullest.
· I love my legs; I’m happy that I’m able to walk and run with them.
· I’m an amazing mom with a beautiful, loving family.
Creswell, J. D., Dutcher, J. M., Klein, W. M., Harris, P. R., & Levine, J. M. (2013). Self-affirmation improves problem-solving under stress. PloS one, 8(5), e62593.
Critcher, C. R., & Dunning, D. (2015). Self-affirmations provide a broader perspective on self-threat. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(1), 3-18.
Using Affirmations: Harnessing Positive Thinking. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2020, from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/affirmations.htm
Cindy Bui holds a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology with a specialization in fitness. She holds certifications such as Certified Group Fitness Instructor, Certified Gravity Ball Instructor, and Certified Remedial Exercise Consultant. Cindy hopes to share her passion for health and fitness by shedding awareness on evidence-based nutrition and exercise.