Background Thoughts Affect Feelings and Expectations
The basic principle supporting the use of affirmations is that our thoughts and beliefs have a powerful influence on our emotions, actions, and overall perception of the world.
When you work with people with low self-esteem or confidence, one element that is almost always present are thinking patterns that make it difficult for that person to see themselves as having successful outcomes in many aspects of their life – for some people, for virtually everything they do.
In some situations, I have asked people to make a record of negative thoughts they have during the day. Often, these people will admit to having ‘a few negative thoughts’ but when they diligently record their thoughts, they realise that they have hundreds of negative thoughts each day. Imagine if you were walking around and had someone sharing negative thoughts about you hundreds of times a day. You would feel terrible, as would anyone. Yet, people do this to themselves day after day, it undoubtedly has an impact on how we feel about ourselves.
What are Affirmations?
Affirmations are the opposite; they are positive statements or phrases that are repeated to oneself to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts and beliefs. They are designed to reinforce positive thinking, boost self-confidence, and promote personal growth and well-being.
By consciously choosing and repeating positive affirmations, we can begin to undo the damage of negative thoughts and rewire our thought patterns to cultivate a more positive mindset.
Affirmations are often used as a tool for self-improvement, personal development, and motivation. They usually focus on various aspects of life, such as self-esteem, health, success, relationships, or any other area where positive change is desired.
They are easy to devise, and some examples might include:
- “I am confident and capable of achieving my goals.”
- “I am deserving of love and respect.”
- “I am in control of my thoughts and emotions.”
- “I attract positive opportunities and abundance into my life.”
- “I am grateful for the blessings in my life.”
Some people also use them to focus on specific things. Like achieving particular goals in sport, or work. In these situations, it targets confidence more than self-esteem, but the principle is the same. It helps the person to develop a positive expectation of some aspect of their life.
Affirmations are in the Present Tense & Regular
When using affirmations, it is important to state them in the present tense. You are trying to assert that these thoughts are already true, not what ‘might happen’ in the future.
They also need to be said with conviction and belief. Some people prefer to say affirmations into a mirror, but there is no real limit on the way you engage with it. Sometimes, writing lines (like rote learning) can help, sometimes people need to say it out loud, while others prefer to use internal dialogue.
Whatever the case though, regularity is paramount. If you say something positive about yourself once a day, and you are already using negative thinking a lot, then one repetition of a positive thought will be unlikely to balance the negative thinking and begin to change your thinking patterns. It needs to be something you engage in many times a day. Using reminders is a great way of achieving this.
Limitations of Affirmations
Affirmations can be a useful tool for personal growth and mindset shift; however, affirmations are just that, one tool. Changing how one thinks takes time and effort. Affirmations should be used as one of a number of tools in one’s self-development.
They are not a magical solution and may not instantly change circumstances or deeply ingrained beliefs. However, when practiced consistently over time, they can contribute to a more positive and empowered mindset. Definitely worth the effort.
Dr Schultz spent 22 years working in psychiatry and then went on to qualify as a lawyer. He has spent 34 years helping people solve problems and the unique combination of medicine, psychiatry, law and mediation provides a unique academic and practical approach to life's challenges.