Using Affirmations to Conquer Negative Self-Talk
If you're on social media, you've probably seen posts about affirmations to try when you're having a particularly rough day or dealing with tough symptom. But what exactly are affirmations? Affirmations are positive statements that can be repeated throughout the day to uplift and help us focus, they give us something to replace negative self-talk with, and they can have a deep impact on our thought patterns. While some people feel confident and proficient in self-love language, most of us struggle with negative self-talk in at least one area of our lives (our body, our relationships, our current situation, past choices) and this is usually expressed internally and externally throughout the day. Maybe you find the voice in your mind commenting on the way you look when you pass a mirror, hear judgements about how you're interacting with others, or feel pulled down rabbit-holes about how what you did will have lasting repercussions. While some negative self-talk feels more harmful than others, all forms can contribute to low self-esteem, decreased confidence, negative self-image and negative thoughts. Let’s use -for example- a seemingly harmless comment that many people mutter to themselves without thinking much about it, “I’m so stupid”. While most of us have thought these words after dropping something, forgetting something, or messing something up, saying these words on a regular basis creates a pathway in our brain. Every time we make this statement, it strengthens and, over time, this little phrase can create pretty negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. Thankfully, this is something we have the ability to address. Say hello to the amazing abilities of neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity gives our brains the ability to create pathways that allow us to learn, make memories, evolve and adapt. Neuroplasticity allows us to do amazing things, like relearn how to walk or talk after an accident, learn a new language or develop a new skill. It is a reminder that our brains are never solidified or done adapting, instead they are always adapting and changing. As a result, we can also harness the power of neuroplasticity to address our negative self-talk and create more positive pathways.
And this is where affirmations come in! When trying to change negative self-talk, the overall goal is to increase our awareness of the negative statements we say to ourselves and begin to change the words we use. One way to incorporate more positive self-talk into your day is by using affirmations. When trying an affirmation, I like to choose one in the morning and repeat it throughout the day. It can be helpful to choose specific places/times that you will try it (i.e. walking to/from the car, brushing teeth morning/night, before each meal) until it becomes more routine. Eventually it can become something you call upon when you need to!
Some affirmation examples:
Let’s say you choose “I call on my inner-strength” for the day.
In the morning, this could help you get out of bed or face a stressful work day, midday this may help you navigate anxiety or acknowledge that you have it within you to tackle a situation, and in the evening this could be a reminder to refill the strength you used during the day with self-care. If the affirmation you chose isn't working for you- try a new one! It is absolutely something that gets easier with practice and we know why- because we are literally creating more positive pathways in our brain!
I hope you find it empowering to know it is within your control to change this script.
Meredith Waller MSW, LCSW
Based in Boulder, CO and offering online counseling throughout Colorado
-Certified Shame-Informed Treatment Specialist
-Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional