There’s a problem with affirmations. Potentially a big problem.
An affirmation is simply a phrase or statement said with the intention to help you gain more positive and helpful thoughts.
I love the intention behind affirmations. We want to consciously put affirming thoughts into our mind to create a more successful and fulfilling life. That’s all good.
The problem is this: You cannot lie to yourself.
When we say affirmations that we don’t believe to be true about ourselves, affirmations can backfire. It actually can cause more problems. Not only are you not allowing it to affirm you, you actually can feel worse about yourself for perpetuating a lie. Also, you can more easily demoralize yourself because you’re not that thing.
This happened to me.
Years ago I wrote out a handful of affirmations for myself. There’s a simple method widely adopted to create a really solid affirmation.
Here’s how to create an affirmation. Use the 3 P’s:
- Positive: the statement must be said in the positive for what you affirming (not “I am not”; or “I don’t want”)
- Present: say it in the present tense. (not in past tense or future tense).
- Personal: about you as a whole person.
I created affirmations with the intention of becoming more physically fit. I said things like “I am healthy.” “I am becoming more fit every day.”
I would say them and, looking back, I could feel the friction. I was not as in-tuned to inner-friction as I am now. I just powered through.
The thing is, I wasn’t doing anything to get more healthy. I wasn’t really watching what I ate and the portion sizes that I ate. I wasn’t getting enough exercise. And I knew it.
The affirmations of being healthy and being fit were a lie. I wasn’t living that and didn’t feel that way about myself. Saying it only perpetuated my beliefs about what I wasn’t doing and who I wasn’t. Nothing changed.
One day, I decided I had to change. I began working out with a trainer. Soon after, I changed my diet and was conscious about what I ate and why I ate it. Results began to happen. Read more about my health journey here.
Here’s the good news about affirmations: they are amazing when you believe what you are affirming.
I started doing the work to become healthy. I was eating better and working out, which caused my better results.
I created new affirmations:
“I am physically fit and am becoming more fit every day.”
“I enjoy eating healthy foods with portions that are right for me.”
Those worked! You see, I believed those. I was fit (fitter than I was) and becoming more fit each day that I ate right and/or workout. I did enjoy eating healthy and controlling portion sizes. Those affirmations felt good to say. It helped me stay on course to live up to those ideals.
Bottom line is affirmations are great at keeping you positive and moving toward what you want in business and life when you are saying something that you believe. They can do more harm than good when you don’t feel honest with yourself.
When I tell people this, a common question I get is this: if I want something and don’t have it yet, how can I use affirmations without lying to myself.
Great question… Here’s how to create an affirmation, using the 3 P’s from above for something that you don’t yet believe you have.
- What is true about who you are, that when you apply it to the goal, it will help you achieve it?
- What are the good qualities that you currently possess?
- What something that you have accomplished that revealed a characteristic you can use now?
Once you’ve figured out what is already true about you, create an affirmation around using those skills and characteristics for your goal.
If you have a goal of greater health and are not there, use an affirmation like “I am resilient and tenacious and use that to become more healthy everyday.” Applied to business: “I use my resilience and tenacity everyday to build a five million dollar business.”
If you love affirmations, that is awesome! Make sure it’s congruent with your beliefs. If you’re not using affirmations, incorporate the powerful ones that align with you.
Then, affirmations will work for you.