Struggling with affirming yourself?
I wrote this just for you. I have explained step-by-step, how you can become effective in affirming yourself. I also have a note for those who think they don’t have anything to affirm about themselves.
Before I continue, let’s consider why self-affirmation is necessary in the first place.
Why Is Self-Affirmation Important?
1. Your thoughts control your life
The entire human life is shaped by our thoughts. Our behaviors, actions, reactions, and words are influenced by the communications that go on within our minds.
Our thoughts, not only affect our minds but go ahead to affect us physically too.
Think about it on a more basic level. All the decisions you make health-wise stem from your thoughts, and these are the decisions that affect your health. Your relationship with, or disposition towards spiritual things is also a function of your mindset.
Hence, the popular saying: where the mind goes, the man follows.
2. Words form your thoughts
Our thoughts are both embedded in words and with words: they come from what we hear (words) and see. What we see is further converted to words in our thinking.
That’s because our thinking is words, and when we imagine (with pictures), there’s a running commentary of words playing underneath the pictures, giving them meaning.
This being true, we can safely say that everything we are currently can be traced to what we have heard. (Hearing includes what our eyes have picked not our ears only).
The running commentary of words in your mind is therefore the determiner of your life.
3. The environment won’t give you positive affirmations
Unfortunately, most of what we have heard or most of the commentary we have running in our minds is demeaning, condemning, or limiting. (Worst if you have all three).
If these are your thought patterns, then you’re not living the life you ought to live or working to your full potential.
But that’s not the whole story…
You can now begin to work to your full potential and break the limitations that your thoughts have put over you by changing the commentary of words running in your mind.
If you will wait on the environment to do that for you, you will make only very little progress, if any at all.
That’s why you need self-affirmation.
What is Self-Affirmation?
Self-affirmation is changing the running commentary of words about yourself in your mind from negative and demeaning to positive and empowering. Simply put, it is changing your thoughts about yourself, especially by speaking to yourself.
Before I go any further, I want you to strike it out of your mind entirely: self-affirmation is not lying to yourself. Instead, it is stressing the positivity in you to yourself.
Truth be told, most of what the environment has defined you to be, negatively, is not true, especially as one who has been made a new person.
Although you make mistakes or you do have flaws, you are not wholly bad. You don’t have a bad self. In fact, a flaw means you are largely beautiful. Self-affirmation is stressing your beauty to yourself.
Self-affirmation is a battle against your inner critic (a voice that criticizes and condemns you, a nitpicker within you that always tells you how bad you are, and how you can’t be good), convincing it that you are good because you truly are.
How To Do Self Affirmations Productively
1. Agree with who you are
This is the first step if you would ever affirm your positivity to yourself— you must first come to a point of mental assent. At least you must agree with what you are saying for you to sincerely say it. Remember self-affirmation is not lying to yourself.
At this point, you may not truly believe it (the entire process of self-affirmation is to make you believe, after all), but you know it is true. This mental assent is at a conscious level– you are processing it in your mind, juxtaposing various concepts, clearing reasonable doubts, to arrive at the conclusion of who you are: a good self.
Belief (where self-affirmation wants to take you to), on the other hand, is in a subconscious state. The concept has already been built into you and you act naturally based on it without needing to reason. However, belief cannot come without first a mental accent.
2. Get comfortable with affirming yourself
The second step towards affirming yourself is to get comfortable with stressing your beauty. Society has conditioned us to have this false sense of humility of not acknowledging our beauty and good. This false sense of humility, however, must be put away if you must make substantial progress in life.
The key here is putting away a sense of humility and actually being humble. But being humble does not mean you don’t see yourself as any good. It means you see yourself as good and don’t look down on others.
Being humble means you don’t see yourself as better, because you are not comparing yourself with anyone. You just see yourself as good, and everyone else as good in their own space.
So stressing your beauty is not pride. It is only necessary and one of the ways to build your self-esteem.
3. Use visual affirmations
Earlier, I stated that hearing is not limited to what your ears pick only but also what your eyes see. This poses to us two main channels through which self-affirmation is powered: audio and visual means.
Create stickers, wallpapers, and bookmarks, with affirming inscriptions. “I am beautiful. I am not a pack of junks. I add sauce. Everyone wants me on their team.” (These are some of my personal favorites.)
Now, before you write each affirmation statement, seek proof for each statement. Our inner critics are very stubborn, so times will come when those statements will be questioned (even by yourself). But seeking substantial proof for the statement before writing them will help you dispel doubt easily when they come (it surely will come).
And the greatest proof that you are good is that God says so.
After writing down these affirmations, place them in strategic positions— places where you can see them so many times in a day. You can paste the stickers on your phone, car dashboard, or screensavers on your PC; you can put on bracelets with these affirmations, but just maximize any means you know suits you.
4. Speak audibly to yourself
This is the height of self-affirmation: speaking! You must take out time to speak to yourself, even if it just whispers. Make sure your ears can pick what you are saying. Set a specific time to do it so it can become routine. Maybe while you comb your hair every morning.
Aside from your routine, anytime you remember or anytime you need it, speak to yourself. There’s a saying I heard that ‘if you hear a lie long enough, you will no longer recognize the truth.’
How about when you hear enough of the truth? The lie is defenseless!
5. Speak in your own voice
There are no ironclad rules as to how self-affirmation should sound. You know what works for you and what tone will easily convince you, so speak just that way.
Remember the goal of self-affirmation is to convince yourself that you are truly good; you have to speak in a way that will best convince you. Don’t aim to sound formal or informal: just sound as you need to be to convince yourself.
6. Speak to yourself in your thoughts
Another way I have found very effective is affirming myself in my thoughts immediately after waking up. I will just lay in bed and admire myself with self-affirming words for some minutes before getting up.
Self-affirmation seeks to change our thinking, so just change the thinking right away. Say the beautiful things about yourself in your thoughts and truly believe them in your thoughts.
Use Self-Affirmation As A Trigger To Grow
Some of the statements you will have to write down and say to yourself are things you might not be fully having yet.
For example, you might say everyone wants me on their team in the morning and face a very mean rejection before noon. Despite this, ‘as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.’
You do not say these statements at this point as praise to yourself because you have reached your peak, instead, you say them as a push so that you keep going until it becomes your practical reality.
Let me explain…
If all your affirmations are things you already believe about yourself, or obvious things, then you need to change your affirmation list. You don’t need to tell yourself, ‘I am a graduate,’ after you have bagged a degree. That will only be an effective affirmation if being a graduate is something you are struggling with.
Remember the purpose of the entire affirmation process is to get the truth that you don’t yet believe into your subconscious: to get you to believe. Affirming things that are already in your subconscious mind would therefore be pointless.
Identify levels you need to rise to, break them into affirmation statements containing the necessary components needed for your rising (they become ladders to that higher level), and then begin to work towards attaining them as you declare them.
Here is what I’m talking about if you are suffering from low self-esteem:
- The level you need to rise to is high self-esteem
- The needed components are: being a personal value, living a purposeful life, developing empowering relationships, etc
- You then write down statements like I am a person of value. I am constantly increasing in value. I am constantly adding value to people. My life is causing______ (state your purpose) to happen. I don’t compare myself with others. I am running my own race. I detach myself from destructive and demeaning relationships etc
- You then begin to work towards developing these virtues: you work at becoming a person of value by learning a skill, reading books, and attending seminars and workshops; you intentionally take your mind off comparing yourself with others and work on fulfilling your purpose. (The first step will be to discover your purpose)
The combination of self-affirmation and work is a powerful tool in making your life as it ought to be.
There Is No Graveyard
You might have put yourself in a graveyard saying, there’s nothing to affirm about me. I am just a total mess. But really, there’s no graveyard for anyone anywhere! What you need to do is to look at yourself through a wider lens, not just see yourself in relation to a role, value, or belief.
You will have to say, I know I am not good at this and this but I am good at this and this and this. What this simple statement will do to you is that it will let you see that you are not in a deplorable state. You are not a write-off.
The role you are failing at is not the ultimate of your life, and if you think it is, you must recognize that you can still rise, but that can only happen when you don’t write yourself off.
Anyway, that brings us back to self-affirmation: emphasizing the positives in your life to yourself (not to plateau, but) to give you strength to rise above negativities.
The only hopeless person is the one who has lost hope, but if you choose to be hopeful then there’s hope for you and an endless possibility.
Self-affirmation is a necessary tool to change your thoughts about yourself and build your self-esteem. The environment will not give you enough affirmations you need, so you have to take it up by yourself. Get enough proof to convince yourself that you are good, get comfortable with affirming yourself, then use every possible means: audio or visual to drive your affirmations.
- Cherry, K. (2021, August 23). What Is Verbal Abuse? Examples, Signs, and More. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-verbal-abuse-examples-signs-and-more-5210954.
- Negative Emotions and Your Health: How to Harness Them for Better Mental Health. FHE Health. Retrieved 19 April 2023, from https://fherehab.com/learning/negative-emotions-health.
- Schwab, N. (2016, October 5). It’s Actually Pretty Weird That We Think in Words. The Cut. https://www.thecut.com/2016/10/its-actually-pretty-weird-that-we-think-in-words.html.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.