Apologies are in order, my Adventurers. I’ve been preaching to you about the benefits of positive affirmations. Upon choosing this month’s life goal of loving yourself, I started to coin this phrase, “Say the words your soul is dying to hear.” In other words, start saying the positive things you subconsciously need to hear from the world around you. I found great comfort and results from this notion. I’ve been practicing affirmations and have raved about the outcome. I used my personal experience along popular literature like As A Man Thinketh and Think Rich Grow Rich to support my claim; I accepted the validity of positive affirmations wholeheartedly. Boy was I wrong.
When positive affirmations don’t work…
Affirmations do work, but not in the way most people publicize. I consider myself to be a relatively confident person, so it’s easier for me to accept affirmations because deep down I do somewhat believe in the message I’m communicating to myself. I am worthy, I am enough, I am meant for happiness. But what if your mind disagrees with the positive affirmations you’re reciting day in and day out?
Positive affirmations will not work if you’re battling with dark thoughts about yourself. It’s ironic actually because you would hope affirmations would work in instances when your self-esteem is at an all-time low. This couldn’t be further than the truth. Allow me to explain with some good ‘ole data.
If you subject yourself to reciting statements that constantly remind you of what you’re not, there’s a turbulent battle between your subconscious (how you feel about yourself) and your conscious (affirmations). This imbalance is known as cognitive dissonance. This imbalance sets positive affirmations up to fail because your subconscious does not register with the words you’re telling yourself and will dig for evidence to disprove your words. Therefore, if you’re battling with low self-esteem, positive affirmations will have a negative effect because the intense cognitive dissonance will cause your brain to bring up more negative than positive thoughts about yourself in attempts to balance itself.
Forget the high gear, kick it into neutral
Again, if you’re truly a confident person and believe in your positive attributes, slay and affirm away. But if you’re in an emotional rut and searching for uplifting, the better approach is to practice neutral affirmations. I first read about this concept upon reading a Huffington Post piece disproving the validity of positive affirmations. Neutral affirmations are a safer bet to achieving the results positive ones bolster without the associated cognitive dissonance, so it stands a fighting chance in working!
Neutrally affirm: “I don’t feel worthy of love in this moment, but I’m working on it.” Instead of: “I am worthy of love.”
Neutrally affirm: “I’m not perfect, but I’m exploring my strengths.” Instead of: “I am talented.”
Neutrally affirm: “I’m learning to accept the things that make me different.” Instead of: “I cherish my uniqueness.”
By neutrally affirming, your brain won’t go into cognitive dissonance shock. It might seem negative at first, but it makes so much sense if you think about it. If I truly dislike my quirky traits why lie and force myself to pretend to embrace my uniqueness. My brain will just collect all the evidence to the contrary. Instead, be real with yourself and don’t push your brain to pull a 180.
Now that we have more research and data behind the concept of positive affirmations, we have the tools to make them work for us. I don’t think we should replace all positive statements with neutral ones though. It might be helpful to pick and choose positive over neutral when applicable. For example, I feel particularly confident when it comes to who I am and my self-worth but am extremely uneasy about owning my talents. My brain is primed and ready to hear positive affirmations about my worth but might need to take a few steps back, and level set my subconscious and conscious when it comes to my talents.
I have a little exercise for you Adventurers ready for the next step in this affirmation game. Take a piece of paper, open up that word doc, or pull out the notes in your iPhone and look at your life under our four Adventurself categories. Write down five honest personal statements under each category. Take your time. Be free with your words and don’t sugar coat because you’re only tricking your mind, which we’ve just learned doesn’t work as easily as we might think! Take an hour to refresh once you’re done with your list.
Heart: Love and Relationships. Example- I’m sick of being single
Body: Health. Example- I’m in great shape
Mind: Success. Example- I’m behind in my career goals
Soul: Self-esteem. Example- I’m not sure if I truly love myself
Determine which categories your brain is ready to receive positive affirmations and which categories it’s ready to receive neutral ones. Don’t fret if you’re only ready for neutral across the board, again the success of this depends on your ability to be truthful with yourself. From there, it’s time to form your positive/neutral affirmations. Don’t feel obligated to be overly eloquent if that doesn’t jive with you, your affirmations are for you . I’m all about integrating slay and fleek in my affirmations whenever possible, #sorrynotsorry. Alright Adventurers, you’re now ready to go and prosper with our refined strategy on affirmations. If you find neutral affirmations helpful, don’t be a stranger. Let us know what you think! Happy affirming!