How to NOT write affirmations
Alright, are you ready to talk about affirmations? I’m going to have you start by pulling out your affirmations journal, picking up a pen and… just kidding, stop what you’re doing right now — because I don’t want you to do any of that.
That’s right! Today we’re going to be talking about the problem with affirmations. Most people don’t know it, but positive affirmations can actually be FAR more harmful to your mental psyche and overall wellbeing than they are helpful. Why?
I’m so glad you asked…
What is an affirmation?
Before we pick them apart, let’s start by defining affirmations. Affirmations are statements we make that tell us something good that we want for ourselves. We look in the mirror and say “I’m beautiful,” “I’m rich,” “I’m a successful business owner,” or some other reality we want to manifest into being.
The thinking is that by telling ourselves these things over and over again, we end up turning our dreams into realities by practicing the behaviors required to achieve our goals.
Too bad it’s all a bunch of bull crap. Kidding! There’s actually some value to affirmations, but not in the way I’ve just described. Keep reading to find out why.
Why positive affirmations are a trap
On paper, positive affirmations look and sound good. Unfortunately, when we tell ourselves that we’re going to experience something extremely far away from our own present reality, we often experience a slew of negative feelings. You can say “I’m rich” as much as you want, but if you can’t put food on the table tonight, you’re not going to feel very good about yourself the next time you tell yourself you’re wealthy.
Simply put, by creating affirmations, we’re magnifying the gap between where we are and where we want to be, instead of closing it. Instead of creating a scaffold that helps us climb to a better reality, we put a pie-in-the-sky belief in our heads that makes us miserable every time we think about it. So, what can we do instead?
Trading-Up instead of Affirmations
Instead of going for all-or-nothing affirmations that create a sense of cognitive dissonance within you, try making new affirmations that are more in line with your current situation — and thus can actually benefit you.
For instance, if you look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re a beautiful model every single day, your true belief will probably never accept that statement, and you’ll end up being disappointed. But if you tell yourself that you look amazing for your age, then that’s an affirmation you can actually believe in — and in doing so, it’ll make you feel better.
This doesn’t mean you need to throw away your dreams! It’s just a more nuanced way to approach affirmations than before. And, in fact, these kinds of realistic beliefs are the ones that will guide you on a path toward the larger affirmations you might’ve told yourself in the past.
What do I mean by that? Simple: if your new affirmation is that “I run a very successful family business for all the tools at my disposal,” your confidence in your entrepreneurship will grow, and eventually you’ll have the tools and know-how to strike out and expand that business. Once your business has grown, you can tell yourself newer, bigger affirmations that are in line with your thinking, and those will help you grow your financial situation even more.
See how it works? It’s sort of an “affirmation staircase,” if you will. By climbing upward and trading an old, outdated belief for a bigger, better yet manageable new belief, we’re able to pull ourselves out of negative thinking patterns and constantly move toward beliefs that actually serve us.
And that’s not a bad place to be in at all, is it?
Before I leave you for the day, I want to circle back to what we were discussing at the very start of this article: journaling about your affirmations!
Now that you know a few new things about affirmations, I want you to try journaling again. Whether you do it online or not, open up your journal and start thinking about all the beliefs you have. Take those and think about which ones you could “trade up” for better, healthier and more useful new beliefs. Then I want you to write those down, read them back to yourself and, if you so choose, repeat them in the mirror.
Now how did that feel?
It might take a second to get into it, but with a little practice (and some helpful guidance), affirmations can and will work for you. You just need to find the affirmations that feel right — and that’s what we’re here for.