Let’s get straight to business. First and foremost, what in the world are positive affirmations? Positive affirmations are statements that help us overcome those negative thoughts that clog up our minds. For example, “I forgive myself for my imperfections, I’m only human,” or simply, “I believe in myself and my abilities.” As you continue to say these affirmations, they grow in power and help you make great strides toward positive change—making this practice an incredibly beneficial self-care technique.
4 Benefits of Positive Affirmations
Now, let’s delve into the benefits of positive affirmations. I briefly mentioned above that repeating positive affirmations can help destroy those negative thoughts. But what kind of effect does that have? Here are 4 direct effects of adopting more positive self-talk:
- Increased confidence. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones will help crush that self-doubt we all have. We’ll start believing in ourselves and our abilities instead (see affirmation above).
- Higher success rate. Speaking or even writing down positive affirmations can also help us reach our goals! If you’re doubting your ability to reach a given goal, try writing down something like, “I can do it, I know I can!”
- Better relationships. That negative thinking has a way of poisoning our relationships, but we can easily turn this around by reciting positive affirmations, which help to strengthen relationships instead.
- Improved mood. Our thoughts have a direct effect on our mood—therefore, keeping those thoughts positive can put you in the right headspace and make for much happier days.
A Remedy for High and Low Self-Esteems
So, you understand just how beneficial positive affirmations can be, but how can you best utilize them? Laurie Thomas, author of Don’t Feed the Narcissists! The Mythology and Science of Mental Health, says it all depends on how confident you are. She takes this topic away and explains how you can use different affirmations as an effective self-care technique to reach a healthy degree of self-esteem:
“Too little self-esteem is bad, but so is too much,” Thomas explains. “As social beings, human beings need to learn how to please others and how to avoid making them angry. For this reason, we need to be tuned in to the positive and negative feedback that we get from other people. Positive feedback means, ‘Yes, please keep doing that.’ In contrast, negative feedback means, ‘No, please stop doing that.’ Yet we do not always have to work through trial and error. Instead, we can imagine how other people would react to what we do and say. To make this kind of prediction, we use our imagination as a virtual audience. When this virtual audience in our own imagination praises us, we feel high self-esteem. When it criticizes us, we feel low self-esteem.
So in other words, our self-esteem is just our own imagination telling us what we think other people will or should feel about us. The traditional purpose of positive affirmations is to correct the unfairly critical self-judgments that many people typically have, often as a result of having gotten too much unreliable negative feedback. If you have abnormally low self-esteem, it may make sense to make positive affirmations about yourself—but only if the statements themselves are actually true. The goal is to make your self-esteem accurate, not just to increase it. In contrast, many people would be far happier and have far better interpersonal relationships if they had a lot less self-esteem. To help people overcome this problem, I suggest the following affirmation:
I am glad that _______________ knows more than I do about (or is better than I am at) ________________ because _______________. This exercise helps you develop two of the seven heavenly virtues: humility and gratitude. Humility means an accurate understanding of your rank within society. Gratitude means that you are glad because of something good that has happened to you.
You can also practice wishing for something good to happen to someone else. The goal is not to make the good thing happen, through some sort of magic, but to practice feeling benevolence. This exercise is a great way to get over envy and jealousy. Envy means that you want something that someone else has. Jealousy means that you hate them for having it. I recommend that instead of trying to boost people’s self-esteem, we should try to teach them compassion, including self-compassion. If they are not overly judgmental of others, they will be less likely to judge themselves too harshly.”