What are positive affirmations?
Coined by American motivational author, Louise Hay, the term ‘positive affirmations’ has made its rounds in recent years as we are encouraged more and more to embrace the value of self-love. In simple terms; positive affirmations are positive statements or assertions that are used to combat negativity or obstructive ways of thinking about ones’ self. Practicing positive affirmations is incredibly easy, as all that is required is to choose encouraging statements and repeat them to oneself regularly.
Why do we need them?
In our current climate of intense social media usage, and the constant bombardment we face of images of ‘the perfect life’, now more than ever is the time to take a step back and embrace the positivity that positive affirmations can have on our lives. We are surrounded by images of people who are better-looking, richer, in the perfect relationship and travelling the world - this perpetual stream of picture-perfect content will inevitably leave us feeling drained and inadequate. However, some things we simply cannot change, so we must take it into our own hands to combat these feelings and turn our attention to positive introspection and mindfulness.
People may decide they want to start using positive affirmations in order to motivate themselves, improve self-esteem or to incite much-needed life changes. It’s all too common to find oneself being consumed by destructive self-talk and for this reason, positive affirmations work wonders in combating these destructive habits by replacing them with constructive mantras.
How do we do them?
Whilst we do regularly use affirmations in daily life, they tend to be negative; we use self-deprecating language and we highlight flaws, rather than emphasizing the best parts of us. Importantly, these negative affirmations are not limited to our appearances, but also extend to the ways in which we perceive ourselves more internally; ‘I’m unlovable’ or ‘I will never be enough’, as examples of such. Louise explains that to change these affirmations from negative to positive is as simple as a slight rephrasing and the declaration of ‘I am enough’, in this instance. This subtle difference is extremely powerful and overtime infiltrates our psyche, whether or not we are conscious of this occurring.
Most of us will have heard of the concept of positive affirmations yet few of us commit to the practice. This may be because if you haven’t ever given it a go, the premise of it can seem odd, or even straight-up awkward. Admittedly, it can feel strange proclaiming how incredible, beautiful, smart and worthy you are. However, the concept is not to be confused with self-indulgence or narcissism – it is simply a cognitive technique, bound in scientific credibility, that is designed to help us affirm our worthiness.
Here are ten examples of positive affirmations that can be used to help tackle negative narratives that we regularly hold about ourselves
- I am at peace with the past and I am ready to move forwards.
- Today, I choose to be happy, and nothing will get in the way.
- I deserve to be my own decision-maker.
- I am worthy of love and contentment.
- I have persistence in what I believe.
- I love and cherish every part of my body.
- I have done my best for today, and deserve to sleep peacefully.
- My life has unlimited possibilities.
- I have the power to change my life for the better.
Notice the emphasis on ‘I’ and ‘My’? This is because you are the only one who has the right to acknowledge your self-worth.
What does science have to say?
If you’re still skeptical, it is worth mentioning that the concept that positive affirmations have a tangible effect on improving one’s mind-set is bound with extensive scientific credibility. Scientists have suggested that in order for positive affirmations to form successful transformations in one’s thought patterns, there needs to be the establishment of a routine. Perhaps this routine takes the form of repeating self-affirming statements for 10 minutes every morning. Truthfully, however, turning self-love into a habitual process may take time but the rewards it will reap are certainly worth the extra effort.
Popularized by psychologist? Claude Steele in 1988, self-affirmation theory is a scientific model that centers on the ways in which an individual adapts to stimuli that threatens the way they regard themselves. The theory has four main principles which are useful to take into consideration when learning how to incorporate positive affirmations into one’s daily routine.
1) The protection of self-integrity
Firstly, Steele’s theory asserts that we do not have to be exceptional and faultless, rather we need to have competence in a variety of differing areas that are personally valued.
2) The protection of self-integrity is often defensive in nature
Secondly, self-affirmation theory suggests that when we are met with information or experiences that threaten our self-integrity, we are inclined to respond defensively in an attempt to preserve our own conception of oneself.
3) Self-integrity is flexible
Drawing from this, it is important to understand that self-identity does not mean having a rigid, inflexible definition of oneself. We aren’t fixed into characterizing ourselves as simply, say, a ‘mother’ or a ‘daughter’, but rather we can be fluid in our acknowledgement of our various roles and identities. Notably, this way of thinking allows us to properly value the variety of our personal successes and accomplishments also.
4) Actions promoting one’s values reduce perceived threat
Finally, the theory suggests highlighting one’s own successes and accomplishments reduces the perceived threat upon our self-integrity. By ‘perceived threat’, the theory is referring to the negative experience felt when our self-worth is brought into question. Therefore, to incorporate positive affirmations into one’s routine serves to habitually remind us of the characteristics and successes that we personally value. Doing so has been proven to help us respond to these ‘threats’ upon self-integrity less defensively, and thus encourages us to improve ourselves as a whole.
In sum, the theory purposes that by taking negative and destructive narratives and swapping them with ones of positivity and self-affirmation, we are allowing ourselves to actually begin fulfilling such desires. Positive affirmations are a scientifically-backed method that encourage optimism and self-love for all. Reducing our innate tendencies to ponder on negative thoughts and experiences is a difficult task, but is essential in improving our concept of self and thus, our overall quality of life.
“Every word we speak and every word we think is creating our future” - Louise Hay
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