Have you tried affirmations before and they just didn’t seem to work?
You said them day after day, but eventually you gave up because they just weren’t making the changes you expected?
I know I tried repeating affirmations again and again, but I never truly believed them or saw any difference in my mindset or habits.
It took me a long time to figure out exactly why that was. I saw affirmations work and create powerful shifts for other people, so I assumed that it was ‘just me’ and that I ‘wasn’t doing it right’.
However, what I came to learn and what I’m going to share today in this article are common reasons that affirmations don’t work as expected and what you can do to get them working for you.
What are affirmations?
First, just in case affirmations are new to you I want to explain what affirmations actually are.
Affirmations are positive statements or self talk that are used to challenge negative thoughts and beliefs, and to build self-esteem, confidence and motivation. Positive affirmations describe an outcome or change that you desire in your thoughts or behaviours.
For example, ‘I am strong enough to face any challenges I encounter’ or ‘I got to the gym because it makes me feel strong and gives me energy’.
Affirmations are always written in positive language, therefore avoiding words such as don’t, no, isn’t, never, can’t and so on. They are a powerful tool in personal growth and development if used properly and regularly.
How affirmations work
Affirmations work by influencing your subconscious mind and reprogramming your negative thought patterns into positive ones. It’s important to repeat your affirmations regularly, because the repetition helps to embed these desired thought patterns and beliefs into your subconscious, where they start to influence your thoughts, feelings, behaviours and attitudes.
Reasons your affirmations may not be working
There are some common reasons that when we try to use affirmations to shift our thoughts and behaviours from negative to positive, we can struggle.
Are you currently falling into any of these affirmation pitfalls:
1. Your affirmations aren’t based on what you actually want
Are you creating affirmations based on what you actually want?
This may seem like a silly question, but often if we are struggling with negative thinking and low self esteem, we can find ourselves following the wants and needs of others.
It’s easy to think that we ‘should’ or ‘must’ do certain things to try and meet unrealistic expectations and demands from ourselves, people around us and society as a whole.
Try this instead:
Before creating your affirmations ask yourself the following questions to help make sure that your affirmations are based on what you truly want:
- How do you want to feel?
- What thoughts or behaviours are currently making you unhappy?
- Are certain beliefs and thoughts holding you back?
- What thoughts would you prefer to think and believe?
- What goals, changes or habits are you wanting to achieve?
Once you have your answers to these questions written down, it’s going to give you a great idea of what changes you want to make. These changes to your thinking or behaviours are going to create your affirmations that create the outcomes that you want.
2. You aren’t connect to your ‘why’
Knowing why you want the outcome you desire is really important.
It’s so easy to know that we want something, create an affirmation and then just start repeating it over and over again. The problem is that when and if you don’t see immediate results, you’ll start to doubt that you can achieve it and end up disconnected and giving up.
For example, perhaps your goal is to start going to the gym but you don’t consider yourself a ‘gym goer’ and the idea of going gives you anxiety. Then the likelihood is that although you tell yourself that you want to go, you probably won’t make it past the front door of the gym.
Try this instead:
If you connect to your deeper reasons for wanting to go to the gym, and yes I mean deeper than ‘I want to look good’ then you will find more success. Really dig deep on the true reasons that you want to achieve that goal, change or habit before creating your affirmations.
So, using the gym example, how will you feel when you go to the gym? Will it have a positive impact on your physical, emotional and mental health? Will it improve your confidence and body image? Will it improve your energy and focus throughout your day?
What do these desires, goals and changes that you want to make to your thoughts or behaviours give you? How do they benefit your life?.
List all the benefits, directly or indirectly of you achieving this goal, change or habit.
When creating your affirmation I encourage you to tag onto it one or more of your ‘why’s’ to help you connect to the affirmation and help it to embed into your subconscious mind and keep you going on the days that you need a little more motivation to take the action.
3. You’re words don’t match your actions
Even if you know what you want and know why you want it, if you don’t take action that aligns with it, nothing will change.
Talk only gets you so far. It might start to increase your belief in the fact that it’s possible, but unless you start taking action to make it happen, then it won’t. Harsh but true.
Try this instead:
So with that in mind, when you’re creating your affirmations, think about what actions you need to take in order for that goal, change or habit to become your reality.
Basically, what type of person do you need to be? How do you need to show up on a daily basis for this to become your reality?
Here are some questions to help you get started:
- What mindset do you need to have?
- Do you need help? If so, who from?
- Do you need to set boundaries?
- How will you need to handle fears and barriers?
- Is there anything you need to stop doing?
So back to the gym example, perhaps in addition to saying your affirmation to start to shift your thoughts about going from negative to positive you can do other things (actions) that will also help you. This might look like, getting your gym clothes ready the night before, asking a friend to be your gym buddy or improving your sleep so you feel less tired.
We don’t create a ‘future version’ of ourselves by behaving like our ‘past or present versions’.
4. You forget to say your affirmation often enough
So often we create an affirmation and then forget to actually say it, or is that just me?
Starting to use affirmations in itself is a habit, so forgive yourself if when you’ve tried before, you have forgotten to say them. Don’t expect yourself to create an affirmation and then automatically remember to repeat it often enough in order for it to take effect, without some effort.
Try this instead:
As stated earlier, for affirmations to be effective for you, you need to be consistent with them.
So I encourage you to take all the notes you have made so far (I hope you’ve been making a few) and put them into a clear and concise sentence (affirmation). You might want to just start with one, but if you have some that compliment each other and help you towards the same goal, change or habit then you can use multiple at a time.
My warning here, would be to not use affirmations for lots of different outcomes, as your brain won’t know which to focus on. Work on one goal, change or habit at a time, whether that using one affirmation or more (within reason, don’t give yourself 10-20 affirmations to say each day).
Then have this sentence, or sentences, somewhere that you will see often. This will help to have your affirmations at the front and centre of your mind as you go through your day. This could be on your desktop, bathroom mirror, kitchen cupboard or pinned to your noticeboard on your desk.
Affirmations can work for you
There is no doubt that affirmations help change your thoughts and behaviours, whilst also improving your self-esteem, confidence and wellbeing. But, it’s important to know that affirmations need to be repeated regularly, they are not a quick fix.
Affirmations take time and consistent effort in order to have a noticeable impact and their effectiveness will vary depending on your beliefs and level of motivation to change. However if you create your own affirmations, repeat them regularly and avoid these common pitfalls I have no doubt that they will be a powerful tool in your toolkit for positive change.
If you want support not only in creating your affirmations and challenging your beliefs and thoughts, but to also start to implement positive daily habits that support the ‘future you’, then check out my membership which is the perfect place to learn the habits that will support you and access accountability and guidance along the way.
Hey I’m Natalie, Supporting women like you on their road to self-acceptance and building their self-esteem is – as cliche as it sounds – my calling.