Self Improvement 22: Self-Affirmations

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self affirmations

Do you want to become a better version of yourself?

I have used self-affirmations for years and found them 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 suggests 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 afterward. 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-affirmation?

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’ feeling of the applicant’s persuasiveness led to the preference of power-primed applicants.

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 behavior for up to two months (Danu Anthony Stinson). In social situations, people often behave in ways that lead 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 an indication that self-affirmation can buffer the effects of chronic stress on actual problem-solving. The results also suggest 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.

Ralph Waldo Emerson quote self affirmations

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.

Here are some general affirmations you can create in each of those fields. I wrote down some general ideas. Use the examples as templates and make your self-affirmations specific to each person or the topic you want to work with.

Family

Here are some of the areas you should think about when interacting with your family. The goal is to make yourself remember how you need to act and in the process improve the lives of people around you.

  • I help my son in a way that let him learn the lessons he needs.
  • I am a calm and loving spouse for my partner.
  • I take the responsibility the family needs and then some to make others load smaller.
  • I encourage my family members in all their undertakings.
  • I take time and be present when a family member needs support.

Career and business

Business and career goals are mostly related to the material world. How to be more effective, how to get more done in less time, but also how to put in more than others and get exceptional results. This may be something you need to do yourself or help others to achieve a common goal.

  • I get one new client every week/month etc. Whatever makes sense in your field.
  • I increase my income to exceed my expenses.
  • I create a safety fund that I can use in the case of setbacks and delays.
  • I help my colleagues to reach their goals.
  • I focus and be present giving it my all every day.
  • I work as much as needed and a bit more to reach my goals.

Helping friends and teaching others

Give a man a fish or teach him to fish. Change people’s lives for the better by giving them tools to help themselves and others.

  • I am open to my friends’ problems and help when I can.
  • I teach other to get better and more skilled in all the fields I can.

Health and fitness

You can’t help anybody if you are not in shape. Make sure you stay physically fit and set goals that move you in that direction. You don’t have to run marathons but moving every day is a must. Build a habit that will take you through your life with maximum energy.

  • I get my weight to X pounds and keep it there.
  • I run a marathon within the next X months or years.
  • I exercise every day even if it’s just walking for 30 minutes.
  • I only eat the foods that are good for me.
  • I avoid all fast carb, sugar, flour, starch.

Meaning and changing the world

You may not win the Nobel prize. You may not even become the community leader in your area. But you may be the best mother or father your kids could have. And then in years when they interact with other people the will understand that you were probably the best thing that ever happened to them.

  • I make the life of the people around me easier.
  • I tell the truth.
  • I find ways to make the world a better place.

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.

Second and third-person self-affirmations

There’s some research that second and third-person self-talk is even more effective in convincing yourself. To make sure you get the maximum results possible use all three options:

  • I can …
  • John, you can …
  • John is …

Now, before you get into next situation that may take a 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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