Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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Many self help books claim affirmations work wonders. However, as I have found working with clients suffering from low self esteem, repeating affirmations is not enough on its own. Some research, such as that done by Wood, Perunovic and Lee (2009), even shows that affirmations do not work for everybody, and if not used correctly, can even be harmful to your self esteem. So, can affirmations help you to build self esteem? And if so, how?
Affirmations can help you build self esteem. They help you replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Affirmations should include a helpful belief or positive intention which must be believable. If they are not believable the unconscious may resist them and they will not work.
“Timely affirmations have been shown to improve education, health, and relationship outcomes, with benefits that sometimes persist for months and years.”Cohen and Sherman (2014). Source: Annual Review of Psychology
Some affirmations appear to be much more helpful than others, so I’ve put together a list of what I believe are the very best 25 self esteem affirmations out there. So if you’re looking to boost your self esteem and confidence, and are looking for a reliable and easy way to do this, then stay with me, I have the affirmations that will make all the difference in your life!
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Can Affirmations Really Help You Build Your Self Esteem?
According to this article by Critcher and Dunning (2014), positive affirmations can help you become less defensive and are helpful. This would seem to be particular useful for those suffering from low self esteem.
By using the power of positive affirmations and by repeating them, you can rewire your brain and alter how you feel and think about any situation or challenge. It is always possible to see a positive side to almost any situation if you look for it. In some rather awful life situations it may seem very difficult to find the positive, but it is there if you can find it. Affirmations help you to look for the positive and affirm it to yourself.
Positive affirmations help you to focus on the positive rather than on the negative aspects of any given situation. There is normally a mixture of both positive and negative in everything you do in life. You decide, no-one else, which aspect you choose to concentrate on. In this sense, affirmations can offer you hope in the challenging experiences you face.
The most powerful affirmations are already in our head. Unfortunately, for most of us, these are negative affirmations. These are often the result of habit and the human tendency to think negatively. Up to a point negative thoughts and negative affirmations can be helpful and even the fear they produce can be useful. Generally though, this fear is only useful in dangerous or life-threatening situations.
Nowadays, most of the challenges we face are not life-threatening, and we do not want to be paralysed by fear when having to give a speech, for example. Neither do we want fear to take control when we have to confront someone over a delicate issue, or if we need to give a presentation, or ask for a pay rise. At these times we need helpful and positive words in our brains, not negative self talk.
We call the negative voice inside our heads self talk. Self talk is our own voice and our own thoughts echoing back at us. This self talk is powerful only because we believe it.
If you suffer from low self esteem or lack of confidence I’d bet that you often hear negative statements in your mind. Positive affirmations can counter these, and repeating them will make burn them into your mind, which can make you stronger in stressful situations.
In the research done on affirmations and the effects they may have on self esteem, there is some disagreement as to how effective they are. One study that did not find affirmations to be helpful in building self esteem is this one by Flynn and Bordieri (2020).
In the study, though, they admit to a limitation which could have caused their results to contradict most other research that indicates affirmations are useful to build self esteem. In Flynn and Bordieri’s study, participants were not allowed to choose their own affirmations. It has been shown, (see Wood et al. 2009), before that affirmations are more successful when you choose them yourself.
Because of this contrary evidence and small disagreement between researchers, I decided to conduct my own research and in the next section you can read what I found.
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My Survey: How Helpful Are Affirmations For Building Self Esteem and Improving Your Life?
I asked subscribers to my newsletter the following questions and here are the results:
|Have you ever used affirmations before?|
|How helpful are affirmations?|
|Not very helpful||12.5%|
|Not helpful at all||2.5%|
|Why did you use affirmations?|
|To think more positively||52.5%|
|To build self confidence||32.5%|
|To build self esteem||15%|
|Which of these is the best way to change negative thinking and behaviour?|
|Read a motivational book||32.5%|
Conclusions from the results on the affirmations survey
The results showed that most of the readers answering the survey had tried affirmations before and were quite happy that they appeared to give them the results they wanted. Approx. 58% said they were helpful, while only 15% said they weren’t. This is further evidence that affirmations do seem to help.
Most people responding used affirmations to become more positive and to build confidence (approx. 53 and 33% respectively). Only 15% used them to build self-esteem. This was a surprise as my newsletter deals with the topic of building self-esteem. However, I believe that self-confidence is an important component of self esteem.
Thinking about this, I think that when someone thinks of using a tool like affirmations they want to change something specific about themselves or the way they behave hoping that this will have a real effect on his or her life. So, it’s natural that someone might want to be more confident and could understand the benefits of this. I think, also that this shows that people want to focus on a specific change like being more confident. Compare this to someone thinking I will use affirmations to increase my self esteem. What exactly would that mean?
Self esteem is a concept and includes within it many components such as confidence, respect etc. so I believe that anyone using affirmations will focus on specifics rather than a general concept like self-esteem. Any goal has to be measurable otherwise how will someone know when they have achieved it or made progress? We can more easily understand when we act confidently or feel more confident and can therefore judge when we have made progress. Perhaps this explains the answers I got in this poll.
I think the most interesting result, however, was that approximately twice as many respondents (63%) said that affirmations were the best method to encourage thinking more positively and change negative behaviour, compared to reading a motivational book (33%). I imagine this would be similar for listening to audiobooks. Just 5% said they thought self-hypnosis was the best strategy, but perhaps this might be because not everybody will have tried self-hypnosis (my assumption)?
So this study does suggest that affirmations are helpful for making positive change in your life, so let’s now move on to my best affirmations list.
My Top 30 Self Esteem Affirmations
- I deserve to be happy and successful
- I have the power to change myself
- I can forgive and understand others and their motives
- I can make my own choices and decisions
- I am free to choose to live as I wish and to give priority to my desires
- I can choose happiness whenever I wish no matter what my circumstances
- I am flexible and open to change in every aspect of my life
- I act with confidence having a general plan and accept plans are open to alteration
- It is enough to have done my best
- I deserve to be loved
- I love meeting strangers and approach them with boldness and enthusiasm.
- I am self-reliant, creative and persistent in whatever I do.
- I love change and easily adjust myself to new situations.
- I always see only the good in others.
- I attract only positive people.
- I enjoy healthy discussion and expressing my opinion
- I like who I am
- I accept criticism as positive feedback
- I can control how I react to stressful situations
- I always encourage myself to learn and grow
- I accept my weaknesses and am working on improving
- Whenever I can, I help others
- I set my own standards and do not compare myself to others
- I can accept compliments and I also offer them
- I spend as much of my time with positive people as possible
- Life is gifting me everything I need
- I focus on the positive, even when I know there are negatives
- I face my fears with positive determination
- I always question my negative thoughts rather than just accepting them
- I believe there is always hope in every situation
How Do You Use Affirmations to Boost Self Esteem?
Now you have my list of top 30 self esteem affirmations, I want to advise you how to use them.
Affirm means to state, or say out loud as if you mean it and fully accept the statement. If you find that any affirmation does not make sense for you, or that you absolutely do not agree with it, then don’t use it. Choose a better affirmation which you can accept.
When repeating affirmations, please do not speak them silently but out loud. This is very important! You need to hear the affirmation in the air. Repeat them at least three times clearly.
Say them in a convincing and confident tone.
Here is a great video I recommend that you watch:
Affirmations for a More Positive Outlook
Self affirmation is so important if you want to build your self esteem because you need to keep telling yourself positive things. The results will be immense because there is no greater criticism that we face than that which we give ourselves. Having a positive outlook is like putting on armour or carrying weapons that will protect you in your daily life.
If you have a positive attitude then you begin to expect that things will turn out well and you are likely to encourage success in your life. Another benefit of being positive is the fact that you will attract people who think in the same way and those people are more likely to be helpful and supportive.
Having a positive attitude will enable you to reduce the amount of negative self talk in your head. You will also find the strength to keep going when things get tough. Motivation will improve now that you think of the positives rather than dwelling on what might go wrong. You will be much less likely to give up and we all know how close we can come to failure before we succeed. It is exactly at these dark moments that self esteem affirmations can be of the most help to you!
How Often Should you Repeat these Self Esteem Affirmations?
That’s up to you, but I have found it most helpful to repeat them first thing in the morning before or immediately after getting up. This way, you’re mind is relaxed and open, ready for some positive mental programming. Affirmations are a great way to start your day!
Another great time to do this is last thing before going to bed, or actually in bed. Your mind is once again beginning to relax and slow down. It is also the perfect time to positively reflect on the days events and the challenges you faced. If you are positive about any small success you experienced that day, then this is a perfect time to self affirm.
A quick warning though, never repeat affirmations in a stressed state, but relax first. This makes it easier for your mind to open up and accept the self esteem affirmations. Meditation can also fit well with your use of affirmations, and in particular, mindfulness meditation which encourages you to reflect on your feelings but not judge them. Meditation is also the perfect way to relax naturally and calm your mind.
You may also repeat affirmations during the day if you want, this is your choice. Morning and night are the best times. In short, do whatever works best for you. These are only suggestions for you to consider. We are all different and self help is about finding out more about how your mind and body respond best.
Find out more about how to use affirmations effectively here.
Creating Your Own Self Esteem Affirmations
One way to make affirmations even more powerful and effective is to write your own. If you find that you have a particular problem or issue you are faced with, for example public speaking, you could write out a suitable affirmation to help you. As we have seen, choosing which affirmations you use has distinct benefits, but writing your own makes them more person and customised to your own needs. Try writing one or two now and see how they help you.
So how do you do this? Let’s take the example of public speaking. You need to be relaxed in front of people. So you could write the following self esteem affirmation:
I am relaxed and confident when speaking in public.
Or… I enjoy speaking to an audience and do so confidently.
Affirmations work best if they deal with emotions and positive actions in situations where you want to improve. They should be positive statements where possible and only write something that you can accept or that is realistic. If it is untrue or unacceptable for you, it just won’t work.
Good luck with writing your own self esteem affirmations!
The Many Benefits of Self Hypnosis
When you repeat affirmations in a relaxed state this is a kind of self hypnosis. In other words, because you are relaxed your subconscious mind is open to suggestion and you will begin to accept positive affirmations as true. Hypnosis is often misunderstood. It is simply relaxing your mind and accepting the truth of statements in order to form new beliefs. Rather than a stage trick it can be used to absorb and develop new positive beliefs that will help you in every area of life.
To work, self hypnosis asks you to close your eyes and relax. You enter a half asleep state and listen to a positive script or story. The words help you relax further and also ask you to see and feel, making the experience more real. It is a form of meditation. With your conscious mind switched into a much less active state, your mind is opened up to receiving ideas and thoughts which your conscious mind would prevent you focusing on because of all of its noise and business. Positive affirmations will have added effect in this mind state. Try it!
Basically, self hypnosis is a natural way to build self esteem and confidence and is highly effective.
So, Now, Over to You!
I hope you’re now convinced that self esteem affirmations can really help you and will give them a try. I’d love to know how they help you. Which affirmations will you use and how will you use them?
Before you Leave this Page, this is Recommended:
- Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual review of psychology, 65.
- Critcher, C. R., & Dunning, D. (2015). Self-affirmations provide a broader perspective on self-threat. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(1), 3-18.
- D’Souza, R.J. (N.D.). Clinical Hypnotherapy and Stress Management, Cardiff. Affirmations: Unveiling the Power of Words. https://www.clinicalhypnotherapy-cardiff.co.uk/affirmations/
- Harra, Carmen. 35 Affirmations That Will Change Your Life. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/affirmations_b_3527028
- Moore, C. Positive Daily Affirmations: Is There Science Behind It? https://positivepsychology.com/daily-affirmations/
- Wood, J. V., Elaine Perunovic, W. Q., & Lee, J. W. (2009). Positive self-statements: Power for some, peril for others. Psychological Science, 20(7), 860-866.
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.