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Affirmations – What They Can and Can’t Do, Examples

by howtolivehappily on February 27th, 2011

Today I’d like to share with you my thoughts on affirmations. While I did mention them briefly in another post, they definitely need some more attention.

What are affirmations?

These are statements that we use to install into our minds new attitudes and beliefs.

When going through our lives, we constantly make decisions about what to do next, how to react to events, how to interpret the things that happen around us. Each time, while we may be consciously choosing between just a few options, the truth is that there are always infinitely many options to choose from. Our conscious minds would be overwhelmed by their sheer amount. Luckily, we are only consciously aware of a limited selection, made by the subconscious mind.

The effect of using affirmations is that they prime the subconscious mind, influencing what options we will become aware of in the heat of the moment. As an effect, we find ourselves doing things we’ve never done before. While this may seem magical, it’s not. Actually it’s quite logical.

Affirmations make us aware of new possibilities to handle life situations.

The root of most problems is often our proneness to use ineffective strategies for meeting our needs.

For example, we all have a natural need for love. We may try to make others love us by:

  • being excessively nice, neglecting our own interests – and ending up bitter and resentful in the long run,
  • using emotional blackmail on others, trying to coerce them into loving us – ultimately pushing them away,
  • trying to always be perfect, always be right, never make mistakes, never admit mistakes – becoming stiff and uptight, and sometimes ending up as delusional liars.

Replacing our flawed strategies with effective ones helps us finally meet our needs, and at the same time become more relaxed and free, and much more fun to be around.

Affirmations can show us new ways to interpret things.

As you may already know, life events have no meaning on their own. We are the ones that give events meaning. Unfortunately, most of the time, we do this on autopilot, without ever noticing that we are doing it. Then we attribute the meaning to the event, as if it was “real”.

Using affirmations can show us alternative meanings that we may start giving the events of our lives. This can drastically change the way we feel about life. I’ll give you a few examples later.

Right and wrong ways to do affirmations:

Affirmations should be positive and in the present tense. Avoid negations. Don’t use word like “want to”, “have to”,  “need to”, “must” or “should” – these only imply that you don’t really have the things you are talking about.

On the other hand, it’s great to use statements like “I allow myself to”, “I love to”, “I thoroughly enjoy”.

Use emotional words. Choose words that speak to YOU. The more personal, the better. I personally like to use words like “amazing”, “ecstatic”, “great”, “awesome”, “love”, “enjoy”, “pleasurable”, “exciting”.

If you say the affirmations out loud, use a confident voice. Mumbling only makes you feel that you don’t really believe yourself. If you write them down, pay attention to what you are writing. What does it really mean to you?

You have to persist. In order to make a lasting change, you’ll have to do the affirmations regularly, over a long period of time.

Problems with affirmations:

They can raise objections. If you don’t believe in what you are affirming, you mind will jump at you and fight back.

A related problem is that while affirmations do contribute to building new strategies of living, they don’t erase the old ones. While you will experience improvement, your old wounds will still be there. You’ll have to use other methods to heal them.

Let me elaborate:

Throughout our lives, we have had many experiences, we have built habits, we have formed beliefs and attitudes. All these exist as neural structures in our brains. By using affirmations, we target to build new structures. At first, they are weak, but through consistent reaffirmation can grow and become powerful. As we adapt new ways of thinking, this also has an effect on the ways we act. Through repeated action, we change our habits. This further reinforces the new structures.

Unfortunately, our old structures still remain in place. What has taken years to build cannot disappear overnight. We still have memories of painful events. We still have our traumas and hot buttons. Our old selves may move to the background, but they still exist – and are ready to take control at all the inappropriate moments. There’s always the danger that they kick in and sabotage our new life.

Change through affirmations is a bit like cash on credit – it gives you a boost, but you have to use it wisely. It can still be powerful and necessary though – as long as you don’t rely on it alone.

Examples of affirmations

First off, here’s what not to do:

I want to be confident
I must stop smoking
I am not afraid to speak in public
I will stop procrastinating

As you can see, some basic rules are broken here – negation is being used – or words like want, should or must.The last example is not in the present tense.

Here’s an example of affirmations I have used. I wanted to become more social and stop worrying about being judged or making mistakes, so I came up with affirmations like these:

When I mess up, I laugh.
When things go wrong, it’s so HILARIOUS.
When I make a mistake, I know I’m learning.

I like to go out of my comfort zone.
Trying new, unusual things is EXCITING.
I LOVE meeting new people.
People are interested in what I have to say.

Delivering the affirmations

There are different ways of practicing affirmations:

  • You can say them out loud. If you do so, make sure to use a loud and confident voice.
  • You can write them down. In this case, don’t just write mechanically. Keep in mind what you are actually writing about.
  • You can listen to recorded affirmations. You can either listen carefully, and even speak along if you can – or you can just leave the audio on loop in the background. Combine both for best results.
  • You can have the affirmations delivered subliminally. One way of doing this is by listening to subliminal audio, with affirmations hidden in it. This is practical, because you can leave the audio on loop and do other things while listening. Another way is to have the affirmations flashed to you very quickly, so that the conscious mind doesn’t have time to register them. You can either watch subliminal videos, or use software that flashes the affirmations while you are using the computer.

I personally have used all ways (except maybe subliminal videos). I installed a piece of software that flashes affirmations – and fed it with a long list of ones I created for myself.

To be honest, I can in no way assess, what effect the affirmations alone had on me. While I was working on changing myself, I applied just about everything I knew about.

Actually, I think this is a good approach – attack the problem from all possible sides with any weapon you know about. Let affirmations be just one of the multiple tools in your arsenal.

One thing though that I believe was really helpful, was to come up with my own affirmations. This made me aware of where I want to go. Saying the affirmations, or having them flashed or delivered in any other way was just reinforcement of the ground work – setting a direction.

When you do affirmations – unless you have them delivered subliminally – you may experience strong resistance from your mind. While this impedes the results affirmations are tooted to produce, they are still very useful – but in a different way.

When you experience resistance, pay attention to the objections your mind throws at you. In this way you will become aware of the limiting beliefs and attitudes you have. While the building of your new neural structures may get slowed down, you will learn about your old ones – and attain priceless information about what you need to work on.

Apart from using subliminal techniques, a way to work around the objections is to add phrases like “I allow myself to”, or “I’m learning to”. Use these modified affirmations for a while, and see if your mind relaxes.

Now you know quite a bit about affirmations. Try them and tell me how they work for you.



“I disagree. This is wrong. I feel offended.” I am sorry about that. Your opinion is important to me, so please write down all your objections in a comment below.  Thank you.

BTW, I also love praise, so be sure to give me some If you feel like it.

Thank you for reading this far. Did you find this article helpful in any way? If you did, maybe you could think of somebody else who could benefit from it, too. Be sure to help them out by bringing them here.

Thank you!

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From → Concepts, Examples

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