Feeling Worn Down? A Simple Strategy to Regain Strength
Self-Affirmations Can Help You Reboundby Leslie Becker-Phelps Ph.D.
You feel like you might crack under the weight of life’s stresses. It’s overwhelming and has caused you to question yourself and even be self-critical. Once your mind begins the downward spiral of viewing yourself harshly, it’s hard to pull your thinking back to a more positive direction. But you can do it with the help of self-affirmations.
This may be different from what you think. A common use of the word “affirmations” refers to people repeating positive thoughts with the goal of manifesting the success they wish to achieve. This is very different from the idea of self-affirmations, as developed by psychologist Claude Steele. He explained that thinking about your values can help you maintain a positive sense of yourself – especially when you feel stressed. Values can be anything about you that makes you feel good or proud. For instance, it can be a trait, an ability, or a basic belief about what is important in life.
Self-affirmations neither create success, nor increase your self-esteem. Instead, they help you to focus on positive feelings about yourself that you already have, but that you might be overlooking as you feel overwhelmed or threatened by difficult circumstances.
As explained in my book, Bouncing Back from Rejection, there are a number of ways that you can practice self-affirmations. Try any or all of these methods:
Reflect on your positives. List traits or talents that you value in yourself. Also list basic principles you live by, such as honesty or generosity. Choose just a few (no more than six) positive aspects of yourself that are most important to you. They can include aspects from all or even just one of the categories.
Set aside some quiet time—even just five minutes—to think about these traits, talents, or values. Reflect on specific experiences that highlight them. If you become distracted by other thoughts, memories, or fears of failure or rejection, choose to redirect your thoughts to these self-affirmations. The purpose of this self-affirmation practice is to connect with aspects of yourself that you are proud of or that make you feel good about yourself.
Create a mantra. Many people find it helpful to develop a mantra that they repeat daily, based on something they value about themselves. For instance, Janine found it helpful to repeat, “I am a caring, empathic person.” Your mantra might be: “I am an insightful, thoughtful person,” or “I am creative.”
Write about the aspect of yourself that you value most. It should be particularly meaningful to you and make you feel proud or good about yourself. Be sure to answer these questions fully:
- What is this value or aspect of yourself?
- Why is this value important?
- Describe times when you lived this value, including how it made you feel or what made it meaningful.
After completing this description for one value, you might want to do this self-affirmation practice again, focusing on another value.
Especially during these times when there are so many stressors to contend with, even people who previously felt secure in their lives now feel that they are losing their footing. Though practicing self-affirmations takes effort, they can be effective in helping you to once again feel positively about yourself and your life.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, check out this brief video:
Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.
Making change through compassionate self-awareness