Improve Your Life #22: Self-Affirmations

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I have used self-affirmations for year and found them really working for me. Then self-affirmations started to get a bad rap. There was not much scientific evidence about the workings of self-affirmations. Now there is a growing body of evidence on the benefits of self-affirmation.

As with many other things where science is just starting to make inroads there’s also an opposing view. Some research suggest that self-affirmations don’t work if you know you are doing it. In this case you can at least make it work on your family and friends.

The other thing is that self-affirmations might not work on people with low self esteem. People who have low self esteem and say “I’m loved by everyone” may actually feel worse off afterwards. The key might lay in making affirmations believable and not too over the top with positivity. Try “This specific person loves me”. No research behind this last statement, just my guess.

So, what are the benefits of self-affirmations?

Boost your willpower with self-affirmation. Research by Schmeichel and Vohs has shown that affirming core values counteracts ego depletion. Experiments found that self-affirmation has beneficial effects on self-control in a depleted state. Self-affirmation improves self-control by promoting higher levels of mental construal. Self-affirmation trick didn’t work on the people not yet depleted. Self-affirmation therefore holds promise as a mental strategy that reduces the likelihood of self-control failure.
Reflecting on the time you had power will make you more confident professional interview outcomes (Joris Lammers). Participants were asked to write about high-power situations in their life before writing a job application letter of being interviewed for admission to business schools.

Independent judges, who were unaware of the existence of the power manipulation, significantly preferred the written and face-to-face interview performance of the applicants who had written power affirmations. The judges’ preference for power-primed applicants was mediated by perceptions of the applicant’s persuasiveness. TO sum it up, just asking people to remember a personal experience with power dramatically changed the impressions that interviewers had of them.

Simple self-affirmation can reduce social anxiety and improve social behaviour up to two months (Danu Anthony Stinson). In social situations people often behave in ways that leads to the rejection that they actually fear. Self-affirmation can improve individuals’ security in relationships and this improvement will allow them to express more welcoming social behavior.

In an experiment, a 15-minute self-affirmation improved both the relational security and social behavior of participants up to 4 weeks after the initial affirmation exercise. The extent to which self-affirmation improved participants’ relational security after 4 weeks predicted additional improvements in social behavior 4 weeks later. Participants continued to get the social benefits of self-affirmation up to 8 weeks after the initial exercise.

Self-Affirmation improves problem-solving under stress. A study shows that self-affirmation has stress protective effects and provides indication that self-affirmation can buffer the effects of chronic stress on actual problem-solving. The results also suggests that self-affirmation may be effective at boosting performance in academic tasks requiring associative processing and creativity, particularly for students who experience stress on such tasks.


The ancestor of every action is a thought. ~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-affirmation exercise

Self-affirmation exercise does not mean that you have to repeat to yourself that you are the best. One of the method for self-affirmation that the researchers used was to ask the participants to list their core values and then write a few paragraphs on their most important value. The list might look something like this:

  • Family
  • Career and business
  • Helping friends
  • Teaching others
  • Health and fitness
  • Meaning and changing the world

Your list may be similar or have other aspects of life in it. But this doesn’t matter much. Just write about your most important values and try to remember stories when you acted according to those values.

Self-affirmation doesn’t have to be related to the area in which you’re looking to improve your performance. So, thinking about your great results as a marathon runner will improve your performance on a job interview.

You can expand the self-affirmation habit with identifying and committing to our core values in life. After clarifying your values, commitment to an alignment of values and behavior will help you improve your happiness levels.

Now, before you get into next situation that may take toll on your mental facilities do the simple self-affirmation exercise.


Image: You Deserve All Good Things by The Sean & Lauren Spectacular
Image: Ralph Waldo Emerson Rowse Schloff by Stephen Alonzo Schoff (1818–1904) from an original drawing by Samuel W. Rouse (1822–1901)

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2 Responses

  1. May 21, 2013

    […] Improve Your Life #22: Self-Affirmations […]

  2. July 12, 2013

    […] talk. There are enough people beating us up. Get away from the people who tear you down. Focus on positive affirmations. This creates belief in […]

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