By definition, affirmation is “a declaration that something is true.” And also known as “a form of prayer that focuses on a positive outcome.” So how do you write an affirmation that works?
But it is not as simple as looking in the mirror and saying “I love you, you are the greatest!” as positive psychology would have you believe.
You can look in the mirror and say “I love you, you are the greatest!” all day every day but, if you didn’t believe it, it would take forever before any changes in your self attitude were had.
An affirmation has to be believed for it to work.
Say what? Isn’t trying to change my beliefs the reason to write an affirmation in the first place? Absolutely!
“One good wish changes nothing. But one good decision changes everything. Your power to choose, to make a good decision, spells the difference between wishing and making real life changes.” ~Steve Goodier
How to Write an Affirmation that Works Click To Tweet
If you most of the time believed you can love yourself, then saying “I love you, you are the greatest,” would work to make you feel more confident and steady in that belief each day. But if you didn’t believe you were lovable at all, it would remain out of touch, even if you say it a zillion times.
This is because you are jumping too fast to the new, preferred story, “I love myself” when you feel far from it. The old story, whatever it is– guilt, shame, self-blame, fear–begin to build up a case flinging disparaging thoughts at you. Their retaliation can make you feel worse. So not only do these affirmations not work, they make you feel more alone in the world, or up against too much. Then you judge yourself harshly because everyone can do it but you, leaving you feeling like a failure again at getting better.
Don’t despair! This post will help you write an affirmation that works!
The reason it is not working IS NOT YOU! There is just too big a gap from the dominate story of pain (what is known and familiar) to the preferred story of love (what is possible to know)*.
Of course you can come to counseling to help transverse it. (I now do online counseling and scheduling. Click the button over my photo.) In counseling we deconstruct that story of pain, and reconstruct a new story (i.e., of connection and relationship and of self love.)
Or you can try a Therapeutic Document
To write an affirmation that works, the problem story still has to be deconstructed. Like, with anxiety, you have break down the power of it. And then smaller, transversable steps can be taken to get from the known and familiar to what is possible to know.
First, you have to identify a belief that you want to change. For example, “I will never get better.” Or “I am unforgivable.” And think of the place you would like to get to. (This might change over time, as your perception and beliefs change.)
Then, you use a series of affirmations. Beginning with an affirmation that you can believe. For example, I you did not think you could get better, you might use. “There may be (however small and remote) a possibility I can get better even though I don’t see it right now.” Or, if you did not think your actions were forgivable, you can start with saying: “It might be possible that I can forgive myself for this.”
Once that is accepted and believed you can take the affirmation one step further. This may take months or days…
“There might be a possibility that I can get better.”
“It is possible that I can forgive myself for this.”
“I may get better, I think I can get better.”
“I deserve forgiveness for this.”
“I am getting better.” or “It doesn’t have to be scary to heal.” (Tailored to the belief that you are trying to change.)
“I can forgive myself.”
Then on and on, small steps–as small as you need–or bigger when you are ready.
I always prefer to write an affirmation down at least in the beginning. Maybe it is the repetition of writing it or seeing it.
Repetition is important when using an affirmation
Unfortunately, fear and shame, or whatever you call the emotion that dominates your pain, often speak to us all through the day. The negative voices of our past telling us that we are not good enough, not thin enough, or smart enough can be good at repeating themselves. Over and over.
So we have to match that. Say or read affirmations at least 12 times 3 times a day. Try to feel it or picture it in your head also. For example, when I was scared of flying, I pictured myself on a plane, calm and happy. I had to feel this one for it to work.
When kids are afraid of panicking in school, their anxiety creates a “video” in their heads of them freaking out at school. I have them counter this by replacing those “videos” with pictures of themselves calm in school.
One more thing to remember: Make sure the affirmation is targeting what you need them to. Once someone wrote to me because she was afraid of going into surgery. She was doing affirmations about walking on the beach on vacation a few months after the surgery. This is great, but she was still feeling awful. I found out that she was mostly in panic about the recovery room and being numb still from the anesthesia. I reminded her to do affirmations, especially kinesthetic ones, about the recovery room: Picturing herself in the recovery room, feeling numb but being calm and at ease. She told me this shifted things majorly!
Over to you. What’s your first affirmation, did I miss anything?