Did you know that February 1 marks the start of International Boost Self-Esteem Month? This global month of recognition encourages individuals to reduce self-critical thoughts and bolster feelings of confidence, competence, and self-love. International Boost Self-Esteem month is an ideal time to reflect on the challenges holding us back and to develop techniques to enhance and maintain our self-esteem throughout the year. For many people, improving self-esteem is easier said than done. Critical self-talk, maladaptive personal narratives, and external challenges can all challenge an individual’s self-esteem. For those looking to work to improve their self-esteem, positive self-affirmations can be an approachable place to start.
What are positive affirmations? Put simply, they are positive statements that underscore an individual’s worth, abilities, or positive qualities. When directed toward the self, these phrases are meant to align one’s self-perception with personal goals and values. Positive self-affirmations can be used to challenge unhelpful personal narratives, combat anxious thoughts, and improve motivation. Further, they can improve an individual’s sense of agency and autonomy in challenging circumstances.
The perks of positive affirmations are not just anecdotal. Rather, robust research has substantiated the far-reaching benefits of affirmation techniques. Self-affirmation theory suggests that regular repetition of affirmative statements can transform our global self-narratives—the conscious and subconscious ways we think about ourselves—and biologically alter the way we think. Frequent practice of positive affirmations strengthens the neural pathways that uphold positive beliefs and favor adaptive thought patterns. In short, positive affirmations can transform the way we see ourselves. They improve not only self-esteem, but ability and competence as well. The use of self-affirmations has been linked to improved academic achievement, lower levels of stress and rumination, heightened confidence in social situations, healthier eating habits, increased exercise and physical performance, and improved receptivity to challenging or “threatening” communication (Moore, 2019). Whether you are looking to navigate social pressure, perform better academically, or work toward wellness goals, positive self-affirmations could be a useful tool to explore.
Nevertheless, implementing positive self-affirmations can feel intimidating. What should you say? When should you say it? How do you make them work? The following guidelines will help you to construct and practice affirmations that feel personal and authentic.
Identify your values and goals: Positive affirmations should reflect the things that are meaningful to you! Focus on qualities and abilities that align with your beliefs.
Be concise: Affirmations do not need to be complicated. Draft brief, straightforward phrases following “I am,” “I can,” or “I will” formats.
Keep it positive: Infuse your affirmations with positivity. Highlight strengths and abilities, and avoid negative words like “stop,” “won’t,” or “never.” When you repeat your affirmations, use a confident, positive tone.
Find your format: Many people assume that positive affirmations are a verbal exercise. While this is often the case, other formats can be helpful, too! Practice reciting your affirmations in front of the mirror. If it is difficult to get comfortable with this activity, try journaling or creating visual representations of your affirmations. You can also record your affirmations as a Voice Memo to hear them aloud, or explore apps like ThinkUp, Shine, or I Am.
Repetition is key: Integrate your affirmations into your daily routine. Turning to affirmations only in times of challenge will make them difficult to believe. Aim to practice your affirmations at least once a day, repeating each affirmation five to ten times per session, to reap significant benefits. It may feel silly at first, but with practice, affirmations can become a rewarding and comfortable practice.
Many individuals struggle to maintain a positive self-image. If you feel bogged down by self-doubt, internal criticism, or difficulty believing in yourself, you are not alone. International Boost Self-Esteem month invites you to examine the factors holding you back and to work toward greater self-love. If you do not know where to start, devote some time this month to explore the practice of positive affirmations. You may find that boosting your self-esteem is not only possible, but simpler than you thought.
By: Shannon Ganley
Mental Health Counseling Intern
Moore, C. (2019, March 4). Positive daily affirmations: Is there science behind it? PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/daily-affirmations/