Why Most Affirmations Don't Work and What Does

For a long time I just didn’t get affirmations. It all seemed so woo woo and hippie dippy. I like to follow the facts and logic and I didn’t see how repeating some magical statements would make a difference in my actual life and goals. 

However, there have been various reports discussing the true effects of self-affirmations on people’s lives. In fact MRIs have shown that certain neural pathways are increased when people practice self-affirmation tasks. How’s that for concrete evidence that affirmations make a difference!

Want to learn how to create affirmations that are motivational and empowering and why the ones you are using may not be working? Check out this post.

Some Benefits of Self-Affirmations

There have been numerous studies to show the actual benefits of daily self-affirmations in people’s lives. Positive Psychology provides 6 examples of how self-affirmations can actually make a difference in how we live and the studies they come from. 

  1. Self-affirmations have been shown to decrease health-deteriorating stress(Sherman et al., 2009; Critcher & Dunning, 2015);

  2. Self-affirmations have been used effectively in interventions that led people to increase their physical behavior (Cooke et al., 2014);

  3. They may help us to perceive otherwise “threatening” messages with less resistance, including interventions (Logel & Cohen, 2012);

  4. They can make us less likely to dismiss harmful health messages, responding instead with the intention to change for the better (Harris et al., 2007) and to eat more fruit and vegetables (Epton & Harris, 2008);

  5. They have been linked positively to academic achievement by mitigating GPA decline in students who feel left out at college (Layous et al., 2017);

  6. Self-affirmation has been demonstrated to lower stress and rumination (Koole et al., 1999; Weisenfeld et al., 2001). 

Why Most Affirmations Don’t Work

The problem is that many people promote creating affirmations in ways that aren’t all that effective. Affirmations can be great, but how you create and word them matters. The following are a few examples of affirmations that just don’t work. 

The Unbelievable Lie

Some people suggest that we create affirmations for ourselves where we take on the thing that we want to be. We say we are the thing that we want to become which is supposed to lead us to becoming that thing. 

There are definitely cases where this can work. Like when we get frustrated with our kiddos, we can repeat to ourselves “I am a patient mom. I am a patient mom.” which will allow us to calm down and actually be more patient. 

On the other hand, there are a lot of cases where this just doesn’t work. If I want to be a millionaire, I can repeat to myself as many times as I want that “I am a millionaire”, but if I am struggling to pay my bills, I’m not going to believe it. 

If you tell yourself that you are a successful business woman but your company is currently just you and you have no clients, are you really going to believe yourself? 

An affirmation should be something you can believe. When there is so much evidence to the contrary, it’s hard to convince your mind that the affirmation is true. If you don’t believe it then it’s not going to have an impact on your life.  

Flowery Passive Language

Another big problem with many affirmations is the dramatic language and passive voice. People say things like “Money flows to me readily and easily.” But does it?

In my experience, receiving money usually requires work. It may be fun work that you enjoy, it may be work up front that leads to passive income later, but at some point it all takes work. There is no magic fountain of money. 

Other common affirmations say things like “I am increasingly magnetic to health, wealth, abundance, prosperity, and money.” I don’t even know what that means. How do you attract health? 

Making changes in life requires effort. When affirmations have this passive language, it takes the responsibility off of us to actually take action to achieve the life we want. If money just flows to you, then you don’t need to make any effort to make it happen. 

If you attract health like a magnet then you have permission to eat however you want because your health magnet will keep you healthy. 

Affirmations That Work

Affirmations that work have certain characteristics that both empower and motivate you. They require commitment, action, why, and dedication. 

A good affirmation will have all of these factors to create a statement that makes your goal inevitable. For example, a well structured affirmation can be: I am committed to replacing my full time income with my income from my side hustle and I will continue to work until I make that happen so that I can have a flexible schedule and spend more time with family. 

This gives you something you can believe. You are not saying you have replaced your income when you haven’t, but you are committed to making it happen. 

It also dictates that you must take action. These things are not going to magically happen, but though effort on your part, you can make them come to fruition. 

It shows your dedication to this goal. The word until shows that your commitment is unwavering, that you will keep working until it comes true. 

Finally, “so that” reminds you of your why.  The thing that makes the effort all worth it. This is what gets you to take action when you are tired, or overwhelmed, or just feeling lazy. It’s the motivation and the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Want to learn how to create affirmations that are motivational and empowering and why the ones you are using may not be working? Check out this post.

Examples of Good Affirmations

The following are examples of affirmations that have all the key characteristics to empower and motivate you to be your best self. 

  • I am committed to becoming my healthiest self by eating more vegetables and drinking more water so that I can have more energy and keep up with my kids.

  • I am committed to trying 1 new recipe a week for the next three months so that I can find meals that I love to cook and my family loves to eat. 

  • I am committed to reading 1 chapter in a personal development book each day so that I can become the best version of myself. 

  • I am committed to becoming financially stable and I will learn and take action on what I can to make that happen so that my family doesn’t have to worry about finances. 

Affirmations are great but they need to be believable and they should incite action so that you can actually achieve the changes you want to make in life. 

Do you practice daily self-affirmations? Let me know in the comments.