Life consists of both success and failure, but one cannot live without the other. On the other hand, we can constantly shift our mindset by learning from our mistakes and reminding ourselves to do better. Over the pandemic, we have all heard about the importance of self-care, but have you ever thought of practicing self-affirmation?
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What is self-affirmation?
According to an article published in PMC, a term called “self-affirmation theory” proposes that people are motivated to maintain a positive self-view or self-integrity when they meet resistance or challenges. In other words, they can retain self-competence even if they meet failure and defeat.
The Science Behind It
It may seem impossible - how can a simple reading aloud cause such a big difference? This research study shows that positively imagining the future is associated with changes in MPFC (medial prefrontal cortex), which positively correlates with imagining positive episodes and is further related to rewarding events. MPFC is also consistently activated in personal goals, future thinking, and mind wandering. Therefore, self-affirmation practice stimulates the brain’s reward and valuation regions associated with behaviour change.
The following paragraphs highlight the valuable benefits and general importance of practicing self-affirmation.
Improve self-esteem and confidence
Sometimes, you will find yourself thinking negatively. Affirmations help you to fight these doubts and reinforce your capabilities.
Increase feelings of self-compassion
Treating yourself with kindness is very important to reach your wellness. It may be easy to show love and compassion to others when facing obstacles and challenges, but you have to learn to practice yourself too. A research study done by Carnegie Mellon University shows that self-affirmation increases self-compassion, fostering pro-social behaviours.
It is easy to dive into the negative side when we make errors. Research published in Psychological Science, an Association for Psychological Science journal, explains how the self-affirmation process minimizes anxiety, stress, and defensiveness. Recording participants’ error-related negativity using electroencephalography (EEG) showed that participants in the self-affirmation conditions make fewer errors than those in non-affirmation situations. They are also more acceptable to mistakes and failures, which allow them to learn from their mistakes. Moreover, high self-esteem also helps to reach success. A study published in MDPI shows that high self-esteem university students are more motivated to approach goals and improve their academic performance.
An Oprah Daily article shares positive self-affirmations for one to incorporate into their daily routine. Below are a few great ones to help you get started!
“I am in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.”
by Louise Hay in You Can Heal Your Life
“You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing”
by Ram Dass in Be Love Now
“The chance to love and be loved exists no matter where you are.”
by Oprah in the February 2004 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine
“Open your heart and drink on this glorious day.”
by Heather Havrilesky in How to Be a Person in the World
“Every day above earth is a good day.”
by Hemingway in The Old Man and the Sea
“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible!’”
by Audrey Hepburn
Ways to Start
1. List your negative features
Think about the areas you would like to change or improve. For example, would you like to have better relationships with your friends? Would you like to build more confidence? Would you like to be more grateful?
2. Rephrase the negative features as a positive affirmation
After writing the negativity, try to turn it into positive statements. Remember to keep it realistic, credible, and practical. For example, turn “I’m not talented enough to progress in my career” into “I am a skilled and experienced professional.” Also, write it in the present tense as if it’s an ongoing statement.
3. Repeat your affirmations regularly
Review your affirmations at least once a day. You can write them down in a notebook and read them out loud. Another method is to record it and listen to it.
Why does it not work for everyone?
According to an article by Clinical Hypnotherapy, a study conducted by the University of Waterloo found that negative individuals find that affirmations made them feel worse about themselves. Another way to adopt self-affirmation is by going neutral instead of “very positive” statements. Also, there is a difference between goal setting and self-affirmations. A goal means something you have to work on, while affirmation strengthens your confidence by reminding who you are. Therefore, try not to write claims that are far-fetching. If you feel like you do not know where to start, a professional such as a therapist may provide guidance.
So next time when you notice you have a lot of negative talks in your head, try taking a few minutes to look into your positive values and best qualities. This mindfulness practice may calm down your nerves, boost your confidence and enhance your overall performance. Self-affirmations take time and patience to be effective. I hope these affirmations can influence your moods, emotions, and habits.
Article Author: Michelle Lam
Article Editors: Victoria Huang, Edie Whittington