They’re all over the web: “I am worthy of love.” “Today is going to be a great day.” “I love my job!” . . . and so on. It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing an affirmation.
Affirmations are popular in self-help and personal development circles for a variety of reasons. They help us clarify what we want, and they frame it in a way others can understand. We share them as part of our own self-expression, but also to help each other grow.
However, there’s a downside to sharing our affirmations; not because we shouldn’t express ourselves – that’s important. But it’s important for each of us to choose our own path, and writing our own affirmations is a big step towards taking charge of your own destiny.
What is an affirmation?
For those who don’t know, an affirmation is a sentence, possibly two, that summarizes a feeling we’d like to achieve, a concept we’re striving for, or a goal we’d like to accomplish. Affirmations are among the rare sentences that benefit from starting with the word “I,” but they can be phrased in many different ways.
How do affirmations work?
Theories abound. My preferred explanation is that affirmations align our subconscious self with our conscious brain, allowing both to get on board with our life goals. By writing down and crystallizing our intentions verbally, we clarify what we’d like and create a lens that focus it. Usually, people repeat affirmations regularly – often several times a day – which gives the affirmation a greater chance of finding its way into our subconscious and becoming an automatic thought patterns or belief. At that point, the affirmation has the opportunity to replace previous thoughts or beliefs that may have been self-limiting, or influencing us in ways that didn’t match our conscious desires.
How is an affirmation different from a goal?
A goal is a specific, tangible objective that we can describe clearly. Often, we create SMART goals (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, timebound).
In contrast, an affirmation describes the way we would like to feel either at some point in the future, and may or may not be associated with a goal. While they may be specific and are hopefully realistic, affirmations don’t need to be time-bound, measurable, or action-oriented.
An affirmation can be tied to a specific goal, but it doesn’t have to be. Many affirmations describe who the writer want to become rather than what the speaker wants to do. Or it could incorporate both. For example: “I am beautiful, inside and out” is an example of a who-based affirmation, whereas “I am proud of my novel” can be considered what-based affirmation. In contrast, “I radiate inner peace” has elements of both who and what.
Why you should write your own affirmations
Writing your own affirmation has many benefits, some obvious, some subtle. These are some of the reasons I write my own affirmations, but I’m sure there are many, many more.
- In order to write an affirmation, you have to dig deep and think about what you want, rather than accepting someone else’s suggestions or judgement.
- An affirmation you write can be tailored to your situation and goals, rather than a generic statement that many of us strive towards.
- If written well, your personal affirmation will resonate with your inner self, which makes it easier to remember.
- Writing an affirmation for yourself avoids the “should” that comes from adopting an affirmation suggested by or written by from someone else.
Okay, but how do you write an affirmation?
Don’t jump on the self-help band-wagon. Think about what you want, instead! Using someone else’s affirmation brings with it the danger than you’re focusing on what others value in their lives, rather than what you value in yours.
While I still struggle, at times, to write my own affirmations, it does get easier with practice! Often, the biggest challenge is clarifying what it is I really want. Once I do that, the affirmation usually falls into place with little effort required.
So, let’s start with figuring out what it is you really want to bring into your life, or ‘affirm’ with your affirmation.
1. Start with “I.”
As mentioned earlier, affirmations are one of the few sentences that benefit from starting with this particular pronoun. The entire point of your affirmation is personal growth, emotional development, or something else related to you. Don’t be shy about it.
2. Focus on the feeling.
Our subconscious doesn’t speak English, or French or German or whatever your native tongue happens to be. I’m not a trained psychologist, but I believe our subconscious speaks via emotion. Our emotions give us clues as to what’s going on in our subconscious, so it makes sense that writing an affirmation that focuses on how you’ll feel when you’ve achieved your goal.
Think about ‘feeling’ verbs, rather than action verbs. If you can’t think of any, use the template “I feel [x]” or “I am [x],” where [x] stands in for the feeling you’re striving for.
3. Think about the 5 Ws.
This step is less critical than steps #2 and 3, so you may not spend as much time on it, and there’s a big chance that you won’t incorporate this information into your final affirmation. Thinking about these questions will help you understand the story and context of what you’re working towards.
- Who. Most likely, you’re involved but is there anyone else? One of my most successful affirmations related to the team of fellow filmmakers that helped me create Paranormal Shopping Network.
- What. There are many different ways to use this. What is the feeling you’d like to experience? What is a more tangible goal or objective that you associate with that feeling? What else might be useful information for you, as you write your affirmation?
- When. Write your affirmation in the present tense. As mentioned above, affirmations usually aren’t timebound. However, time can creep into an affirmation, and there is usually some sense of when involved. In my experience, affirmations tend to focus on something in an unspecified, intermediate timeframe – not too close but not too far away. Writing it in the present tense helps your subconscious believe it’s already happened, and you’re experiencing the benefits already. If you don’t believe you can achieve your objective in the near future, consider a transitional step that you can write an affirmation about instead.
- Where. Another question that may or may not be relevant. Are you planning to move, change jobs, or have some other location-bound objective? How does that influence what you need to focus on with your affirmation? The where of an affirmation tends to be implied, but in some cases stating it outright is beneficial.
- Why. This one can go deep. Why do you want to achieve this? What’s your motivation? While understanding your inner drive isn’t necessary, it can be helpful. And the process of figuring it out may change your ultimate destination, which definitely affects the affirmation.
- How. See the next tip for more on this, but the only how you should worry about is “How will you feel after this goal is complete?” Anything else becomes too much like a goal or a plan, and isn’t really an affirmation!
4. Don’t worry about the “how”.
This is effectively putting a straight-jacket on your subconscious, trying to force it into a mold that may or may not work for you. Consider these two phrases: ”I love and care for my body” versus “I love and care for my body by exercising and eating healthy foods” The latter is more specific, certainly, but is it a better affirmation? Say them aloud. Which feels better? For most of us, it’s the former. The latter comes packed with expectations about the best way to care for our body, and perhaps feels critical of our current actions. There may be other, subtler ways you can care for your body that will reveal themselves if you open your subconscious mind to the possibility.
5. Positive phrasing is better than negative.
Some practitioners will tell you to avoid any negatives at all in your affirmation. There is wisdom to this; it’s better to focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want. However, especially for beginners, phrasing without negative language is tricky. Challenge yourself to phrase it differently, but if you’re really struggling, stop to think about the outcome you’re looking for; if you’re affirmation is focused on that, it’s probably fine. And, as you continue to work with your affirmation, you may think of new and creative ways to rephrase it!
6. Make sure it resonates.
If you feel uncomfortable with your affirmation, you may avoid it. In any case, it suggests a disconnect between your conscious thoughts and subconscious feelings that needs to be addressed.
7. Shorter is better.
Thing about these two possibilities: “I’m proud of my work, and all I’ve accomplished in life.” Or “I’m proud of my life’s work.” Do they both capture the same feeling? If so, the latter is a better option, and simplifies the feeling you’d like to capture with your affirmation.
If you find you need a longer affirmation, consider a series of shorter affirmations instead. For example, “I am proud of my novel. The story flows well, and the characters are relatable.” is really three affirmations in one!
8. Allow your affirmation to evolve with you.
It’s good to stay focused on the same affirmation for a while, but don’t be too rigid about it. If, after a few days or weeks of using your new affirmation, you realize it isn’t what you wanted after all, or you’re able to be more specific, rewrite your affirmation to something that works for you then, and allow the past affirmation to be, well, part of the past!
Still struggling with your affirmation?
If the tips above still aren’t enough to get you that perfect affirmation, or you find yourself otherwise struggling with the writing process, you have a few options:
Journal. Let your subconscious flow, express your feelings. You may have mixed emotions about what you’re trying to manifest, so acknowledge everything that’s relevant. Or perhaps there’s some self-judgement about what you want out of life. You’ll need to deal with these inner hurdles before you can write an affirmation that truly resonates.
Meditate. Similar to journaling, but without the writing. Clear your mind, be present in the moment, and allow thoughts to come to you instead of marshalling them consciously. What comes up? It may be different from what your conscious mind was writing, but perhaps it feels better. And that’s okay! Go with the flow, and let the process evolve naturally.
Work with a Life Coach. Life coaches are experienced, trained question-askers. They’ll guide you through the process of identifying what it is you’re trying to say, and how to say it in a way that fits your needs. Learn more here.
Ask Your Akashic Records. Asking for help from your spirit guides and the depth of your soul’s Akashic Records will help you address any thought-patterns that may be interfering with your affirmation, and they may suggest an alternative that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own! Learn more here.
These are just a few tips for writing your own affirmations. If you have additional advice, favorite affirmations that you’d like to share, or a story about an affirmation that worked particularly well for you, please share in the comments below!