The Power of Positive Affirmations
By: Liz Toth, Student Therapist
Be kind to your mind
Do you speak to yourself the way you would a friend? The answer for most of us is: “probably not”. Often times, we are our own worst critic. We speak to ourselves in harsh and self-deprecating ways. When our negative self-talk becomes a pattern, it becomes part of our self-concept: how we think of ourselves as human beings. Harsh self-talk patterns affect our feelings of self-worth which can lead to a host of mental health struggles such as feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, isolation, and depression. Being hard on ourselves is not helpful. Negative self-talk does not motivate us to be better or accomplish difficult things. On the contrary, low self confidence stemming from a pattern of harsh self-criticism often deters us from taking chances and making changes that could better our lives and increase wellbeing. So how can we break this pattern? Be kind to your mind.
Three Ways To Be Kind To Your Mind
It is possible to be kinder to yourself, to show yourself self-compassion, and to break the pattern of limiting beliefs about yourself. It takes practice and determination. After all, you have created a habit of speaking to yourself in this way, breaking that habit will not happen by tomorrow. The key to change is awareness, because without awareness we cannot change anything.
Notice Your Self Talk
The first step is noticing your internal dialogue. What are the thoughts running through your mind? What does the voice sound like? Is it like how you would speak to a friend? Or is it aggressive, abusive, and demeaning? Become mindful of how you speak to yourself, when this voice comes out, and how you feel after berating yourself.
Evaluate What You Say To Yourself
The second step is to determine whether negative self-talk is helpful. Does this harsh self-criticism increase your wellbeing, better your life, or move you closer to your goals? Think of it this way: if a child comes home with a failing math grade, consider which of the following scenarios would best help the child move closer to the goal of improving. Scenario one: A parent berating the child, telling them they will never amount to anything, and calling them stupid. Scenario two: A parent empathizing with the child, recognizing how painful it must be to fail at math, and asking how they could support them academically and emotionally moving forward. Typically, scenario two would better motivate and support the child in accomplishing their goal of passing math. Additionally, the failing math grade would be less likely to impact the way the child views themselves as a human being.
Choose To Make A Change
Step three is deciding to make a change. Positive affirmations are a great technique to help alter your self-talk, creating a kinder and more effective environment in your mind. Positive affirmations are statements that you repeat to yourself over and over again until they become part of the way you routinely speak to yourself. As with most change, this is not always easy. It takes about 72 days to create a routine, and as such, actively practicing positive affirmations takes mindfulness and intentionality. Everyone is different, so you are invited to find what works best for you. This may look like writing your affirmations on sticky notes and putting them around your house, repeating them as you see them. It may look like pairing affirmations with another activity such as having your morning coffee. Consistency is key.
The Power Of Positive Affirmations
Affirmations are positive statements that can help you overcome and challenge negative thoughts. Affirmations are meant to be repeated often, with the idea that how we think about ourselves impacts how we experience the world. Small steps to improve positive self-talk can help how we view ourselves.
It is important to repeat affirmations that resonate with you. As such, you may wish to take from the following suggestions, or you may wish to think of your own!
- I am worthy
- I am not in control of others; I am only in control of me
- My outward appearance does not define me
- Despite how I feel, I understand this feeling and situation are temporary
Remember, change often comes from discomfort. It may feel silly to repeat statements out loud to yourself, especially if you are going the extra mile and looking at yourself in the mirror when doing so! You may not necessarily believe what you are affirming yet. With time, consistency, and practice, you may just find that your affirmations have become part of your self-talk. When this happens, you may find that your mind is a kinder place to be.