Self Affirmations aren’t working? Find out why!

I love me!

“I’m not good enough.”

“I’ll never be pretty.”

“I’m a horrible person who doesn’t deserve love.”

There are so many examples of negative thoughts that many of us have on a daily, if not hourly, basis. These are some that I struggled with. I’m sure that yours are just as bad.

So what can we do about it? What are self affirmations? Do they actually work?

Self Affirmations are positive things you tell yourself, daily, hourly, or even by the minute, that overcome the sabotaging negative thoughts that are bringing you down. Do they work?

According to science, and my own experience, yes. They do. But not right away. Often times they sound hokey, like we’re lying to ourselves.

But in reality, we’re finally telling ourselves the TRUTH. You ARE good enough. You ARE pretty, or handsome. You ARE NOT a horrible person, and you DO deserve love. You deserve ALL the love.

Affirmations can help, but your self esteem must be high enough first, according to research. If not, it can actually take you backward, because it creates a disconnect between the positive place you want to be, and the negative place you are right now.

So how do you know if your self-esteem is high enough for this to work?

To evaluate your own levels of self-esteem, complete the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (SES). This is a 10-item scale developed by Dr. Morris Rosenberg. Even though it was developed in 1965, it’s still a popular form of measurement used in self-esteem research.

Improving Self-esteem is very personal. Positive self-esteem, which is very difficult to have when you’re struggling with a mental illness like depression, helps you to be yourself, helps you to act the way you want to act, and boosts your self confidence.

Negative self-esteem does exactly the opposite. That’s where your negative thoughts come from, where the self-doubt comes from. Why it’s hard to know how amazing you are. It’s very common to have low self-esteem when you’re struggling with any kind of mental illness. Especially depression.

So what do you do to raise your self-esteem?

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a couple of steps you can take.

  1. Identify troubling conditions or situations – Think about the conditions or situations that seem to deflate your self-esteem. Common triggers might include:
    1. A work or school presentation
    2. A crisis at work or home
    3. A challenge with a spouse, loved one, co-worker or other close contact
    4. A change in roles or life circumstances, such as a job loss or a child leaving home
  2. Become aware of thoughts and beliefs – Once you’ve identified troubling situations, pay attention to your thoughts about them. This includes what you tell yourself (self-talk) and your interpretation of what the situation means.
  3. Challenge negative or inaccurate thinking
    1. All-or-nothing thinking – You see things as either all good or all bad. For example, “If I don’t succeed in this task, I’m a total failure.”
    2. Mental filtering – You see only negatives and dwell on them, distorting your view of a person or situation. For example, “I made a mistake on that report and now everyone will realize I’m not up to this job.”
    3. Converting positives into negatives – You reject your achievements and other positive experiences by insisting that they don’t count. For example, “I only did well on that test because it was so easy.”
  4. Adjust your thoughts and beliefs
    1. Use hopeful statements – Treat yourself with kindness and encouragement. Instead of thinking your presentation won’t go well, try telling yourself things such as, “Even though it’s tough, I can handle this situation.”
    2. Forgive yourself – Everyone makes mistakes — and mistakes aren’t permanent reflections on you as a person. They’re isolated moments in time. Tell yourself, “I made a mistake, but that doesn’t make me a bad person.”
    3. Avoid ‘should’ and ‘must’ statements – If you find that your thoughts are full of these words, you might be putting unreasonable demands on yourself — or on others. Removing these words from your thoughts can lead to more realistic expectations.

Check out the rest of the article for more information. Also, check out my resources page for more information on specific mental illnesses.