Self-affirmation is like one of those things they make you do in your required freshman seminar class. Everyone feels awkward about it, and once you’ve made it through the class, you probably never practice it again. It’s hippie stuff, right? The idea that you can speak success into your life seems silly in our capitalist minds, where we’re taught to show up early, stay late, and make sacrifice after sacrifice in order to make it to the top.
In fact, we spend so much time trying to win the rat race that we end up driving ourselves into some pretty emotionally dark places. I can still see myself, sitting on my bedroom floor, sobbing about my job while my fiance stood in shock, not knowing how to help me. It isn’t healthy, people! And it certainly isn’t the mindset anyone should want to be in for the sake of finding success.
While it may seem silly, self-affirmation can have very real--and very positive--impacts on your life. Among those impacts is its ability to lower stress. In a study published in 2013, researchers found that self-affirmation helped improve the problem-solving abilities of individuals classified as having “high chronic stress.” Individuals were asked to rank their stress levels and solve a Remote Associates Task (RAT) problem before and after time spent self-affirming.
“Self-affirmation (compared to the control condition) improved the RAT problem solving performance of underperforming high chronic stress individuals, but had a minimal impact on the performance of participants low in chronic stress,” the study noted. “This stress buffering effect of self-affirmation improved the problem-solving performance of high stress individuals to a level comparable to individuals low in stress.”
The science is there, but you also don’t need to understand all of the figures and data from that study to grasp why affirmations work. In an article about that same study, Psychology Today broke it down in Layman’s terms:
“At the simplest level, when we feel good about ourselves and have a positive attitude, our lives tend to run smoothly,” the article explained. “On the other hand when we feel bad about ourselves and have a negative attitude, we tend to engage in self-defeating behaviors which may cause negative outcomes, like financial mishap, interpersonal drama, or acute or chronic illness.”
Essentially, you’re rewriting your subconscious mind. Have you ever gone into a meeting at work with someone you don’t get along with? How many times have those meetings ended without much getting done, or with you and your colleague seemingly standing at odds with each other? Your subconscious mind has likely done a great job steering the conversation without you even realizing it. Affirmations are there to guide your subconscious in a more positive direction.
Affirmations for working women
Don't make it a chore to incorporate affirmations into your day-to-day life. Just write one down and repeat it often.
Affirmations should be written in the first person and present tense, and have an emotional charge. Start with something small, and see what a difference it might make in an area of your life where you might be struggling.
Don’t have time to sit down and think hard about your own affirmations? Here are a few to choose from or adapt.
For those hoping to move up:
“I am hardworking and productive. I am grateful for my abilities to lead in the workplace. I am a strong leader and supportive colleague.”
For those who need an emotional pick-me-up:
“I am in control of my emotions at work. I am able to guide myself through my day positively. I am the leader of my emotional destiny.”
For those dealing with difficult colleagues:
“I am a collaborative colleague. I am grateful for how well I can work with others in all situations. I am a successful team player.”
For those looking to make a change:
“I am intelligent and capable beyond my current status. I am appreciative of the work I do now that helps me grow each day. I am moving on to do even greater things.”
One final but important reminder: Write your affirmation down and repeat it regularly, out loud, and let yourself hear each and every part of it. Keep it in your iPhone notes, write it on a scratch of paper and stick it in your wallet, or print it out and tape it on the wall next to your desk. This might be the start of some incredible, positive change!
By Alyssa Huntley
Alyssa Huntley lives and works in Washington, D.C. She has written about a range of topics, from technology to real estate to women's issues. Find her on Twitter @alyssajhuntley or check out her website, www.alyssajhuntley.com.