I am confident.
I am brave.
I can do it.
I am anxious.
I am not good enough.
I can’t do it.
Affirmations – the action of affirming things about yourself in your mind – can be positive and negative, and both have power. By telling yourself that you are ‘this’ or ‘that’ time and time again will, eventually, make you believe that you truly are that person – even if you are no longer consciously engaging in those thoughts. If you repeatedly tell yourself that you are “anxious” or you “can’t do it”, the likelihood is that you will compound a personality trait that is prohibitive to your capabilities. Whereas, if you tell yourself that you can and you will, that you are brave and strong, you will encourage your mindset to shift towards one where you genuinely take on these behavioural traits without continued conscious thought. From here, confidence can grow and potentials are reached. However, in order to make affirmations advantageous, the balance must be right.
Of course, many mental health problems are influenced by biological factors, and a multitude of areas must be addressed and worked upon together to reach the end goal of good health. Before I suffered with anxiety I never understood, or particularly believed in, the power of affirmations. I thought that the idea of positive affirmations was a nice thought, but something that was not particularly significant, especially not in helping someone heal from poor mental health or mental illness. In other words, I was sceptical. However, once I was in the thick of dealing with anxiety myself, positive affirmations became an obvious tool for me to utilise, but only once I attached some mathematical logic to the notion. A problem I’ve noticed in society is that advice is often given without an explanation to underpin it’s significance, importance or successfulness, and so people don’t understand, nor listen, nor take the advice on – how could they?!
The big question I asked myself was: how can we engage in positive affirmations in a way where negative affirmations no longer have an effect? If your affirmations are 75% negative and 25% positive, you will continue to fall into an increasingly prohibitive state. If your affirmations are 50-50 positive-to-negative, you will stay where you are. The idea is to shift the balance to at least a 75% positive to 25% negative ratio. It is not realistic to set a goal of never thinking negatively ever again – that is impossible – so the idea is to minimise negative thoughts while counteracting their effects with significantly more positive affirmations over a prolonged period of time. This allows self-progress to start, continue and flourish.
It seems obvious, but it wasn’t until I was in that position of requiring a helpful tool for healing did it cross my mind. It was funny when I met Bill Beswick, the former Manchester United sports psychologist, a few months later that I learnt my 75% to 25% balance was, in fact, a commonly used psychological tool (maybe with varying ratios). I studied psychology at A-Level, but I can’t remember ever being taught this technique – maybe I just can’t remember, who knows! What I do know is that engaging over time in positive affirmations in this way is significant to striving towards better mental health, and, from personal experience, has the capability to help squash self-doubt and allow confidence to grow and shine through.
Negative affirmations do not always come from ourselves. More often than is right, we are subject to ‘constructive’ criticism, subtle nuances suggesting incapability, or straight up meanness from others. From here, self-doubt can breed and spread like wildfire. However, in order to prevent the flames from taking over, the same technique applies: at least 75% positive to squash the 25% negative. It’s also vital to remember that, even though self-reflection and taking accountability for wrongdoings is necessary, other’s mean actions are normally a reflection of their own insecurities, self-doubt or worries. Don’t give their critiques particular significance. They won’t be saving this behaviour just for you! Prove to yourself that you can and you will.