Affirmations: The Power of Positive Self-Talk

by Cindy Loughran

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. —Aristotle

We are constantly chattering to ourselves. In fact, we human beings think between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day. Research indicates that a very high percentage of these thoughts are negative and further, that many are self-deprecating, hurtful and disempowering messages, directed inward at ourselves.

What makes our self-talk most dangerous, is that we hear it as THE TRUTH. We BELIEVE we are not beautiful, not creative, not powerful, not good enough and we can gather and recite plenty of evidence to prove it. If we asked others, they would likely disagree and could site equal evidence that what we are saying is false. But, we don’t believe them. And we stay stuck.

A high percentage of the negative thoughts we have each day are the same thoughts we had the day before, and the day before that and the day before that. In other words, these limiting beliefs have become habit: long practiced and deeply engrained. They are our default mode, created without conscious thought. They’ve been a part of our routine for so long, we’re not even aware there’s another possibility.

But there is a world of other possibilities. And they are within your reach. Our limiting beliefs are based on old messages we received or interpreted sometime in our past. Because we learned them from someone who was in some way an authority figure to us, perhaps a parent, teacher, church leader or other, we accepted it as THE TRUTH. But, they were not necessarily true back then and they are no more true today than the statement, red is good and blue is bad. They were merely someone else’s opinion, fit someone else’s rules or sense of right and wrong. The good news is, we can change those thoughts to new, more empowering ones and then, with repetition, create new habits that shift our lives onto a new and powerful trajectory.

Let’s take a look, in simplistic terms, at how habits are formed. When you do something often enough, you begin to create a neural pathway, a literal groove in the part of your brain responsible for memory, called the hippocampus. Think about a tire track on a soft dirt road. Each time you drive over that road, the rut gets deeper. After a while, it gets so deep you can’t drive out of it. The rut, not you is steering the car.

Habits work the same way. Each time you repeat the same thought or the same behavior, the groove in your brain becomes deeper. After a while, you feel as if you have not choice but to keep doing what you’ve always done.

In order to change a behavior, you have to consciously create and practice a new, different and more effective one. You have to create a new rut in the road; one that leads to a better destination. That’s where affirmations come in. They help you replace habitually negative thoughts with positive ones. When practiced deliberately and regularly, they create and reinforce the neural pathway in the brain, creating a new groove and making it more likely and more natural to have the same thought, this time a positive one, more often thus creating a new habit.

Why are our thoughts so important? They are just thoughts, after all. Not so. Thoughts become things. Thoughts spark feelings and feelings trigger actions. When you believe you’re not good enough, do you not hold back? When you think you are not creative, do you not withhold your thoughts and contributions and rob the world of your opinions, wisdom and light?

We’ve created the Personal Power Pathway programs to help you create the empowering habit of self-acceptance and self-love so that you can develop greater confidence and sense of well-being. It is our hope that it will support you to reach for and achieve the dreams and goals you’ve had for yourself for a very long time but have kept yourself from reaching.
Some guidelines for listening to affirmation messages:

  1. Make sure that when you listen to positive affirmations you are truly in a receptive mode.
  2. Be alone and not distracted.
  3. Take some deep relaxing breaths to become calm and centered.
  4. Clear your head of any other concerns.
  5. Avoid ‘tail-enders’*

* One of the main reasons why positive affirmations do not work is because of the presence of tail-enders. Tail-enders are those thoughts you have right after you think or say an affirmation. For example, if the affirmation is: “I am fit and healthy”, and you don’t believe that thought, you are likely to say something like “That’s such garbage, I’m a flabby bum.” And, that message is the last thing your mind registers and the universe hears. That becomes the dominant message. If you find yourself prone to tail-enders, modify the affirmation to say, “I am open to becoming fit and healthy” or “I am becoming more fit and healthy every day.”