Positive + motivational messages are everywhere.

Have you tried using one of those short phrases you repeat to change yourself for the better. Like I’m confident. I’m worthy. I’m abundant.Positive messages seem like a wonderful idea: repeat one and presto, you're actualized. So why do they sometimes feel silly?

Here's why they often don't help and how to make them work for you.

How do positive affirmations work?

According to Louise Hay, positive affirmations send the message to our mind that we’re taking responsibility for changes in our life. Our internal dialogue—what we tell ourselves on a daily basis—plays an important role in our relationships, family, money, work and health.

The premise is that if we focus on positive thoughts, we’ll attract positive experiences. Even if you’re not into anything woo-woo, it makes sense that if we focus on positive thoughts, our feelings of empowerment will increase. But it’s much more complex than that.

The #1 mistake people make about positive messages

Louise Hay says that we have to not only repeat or think positive messages as much as possible everyday, but we also have to feel good. That’s a tall order for the inner critic most of us have, that voice in our head that says we’re never good enough. Sometimes, you can even feel hopeless when using positive affirmations: like you’re just not getting it or it's not working, yet another effort where you haven't experienced success. 

There's a reason that positive messages don't resonate and stick — positive messages work at the surface level of our conscious mind, while our beliefs about ourselves live in our subconscious.We all have deeply-ingrained beliefs that don't serving us. Beliefs like I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy. I’m a failure.

The biggest mistake people make about positive affirmations is slapping them on top of their negative beliefs. According to this Forbes article

So if we believe deep down that we’re unworthy of success, our actions will be colored by that belief. As a result, it’ll be much more difficult for us to succeed. But it’s not the end-all. We can use positive affirmations to highlight parts of us that need to be strengthened or healed, so that we can live a more peaceful and fulfilling life.

10 steps to make positive messages work

1. Find a quiet spot

Make sure it’s quiet enough so that you can hear yourself thinking (you’ll see what I mean below).

2. Choose a Goodthoughts message

It's ideal if you can find a quiet spot and repeat the Goodthought in your mind or out loud or even jot it down in your journal. Some examples are: x,x,x,x,x,

And if you happen to be in a meeting and need to xxxxx

4. Observe your thoughts

Right after you say the Goodthought, observe any thoughts, emotions, images or physical sensations that arise. Simply notice any resistance. Do you get a sinking feeling in your stomach? Does your throat tighten? What emotions are you feeling? What thoughts or images race through your mind?

5. Allow your thoughts to flow

Resisting negative thoughts and emotions amplifies them. If we allow them to just be, they’ll often float away on their own. Brace yourself though for a barrage of put-downs like You can’t do it. Stop being silly, loser. Give up now.

6. Contemplate why this positive affirmation feels false

So if you picked the Goodthought,  “ Be yourself, you're lovely”, Why do you not feel lovely? Consider the times you haven't felt lovely.

Did parents, caregivers or teachers criticize you? Did a classmate make fun of you as a kid? Does it seem impossible to satisfy your boss? Does your partner criticize you more than praise you?

7. Accept past hurts

It hurts so much, but even more so when we hang on. Take it from Anaïs Nin: And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Reckless sobbing and journaling are encouraged. 

8. Look out for signs that validate the positive affirmation

With the example of  “ Be yourself, you're lovely” pay attention to big and small things: I made a healthy breakfast and took a walk (I’m taking care of myself). I strive to do my best at work. I’m learning how to communicate better in my relationship. 

9. Be patient and let yourself feel good about yourself

You’ve excavated parts of yourself that needed to heal and took care of your emotional wounds. You’ve confronted painful emotions. And now you’re moving on to better things.

That’s no mean feat! Take the time to acknowledge your progress.

10. Repeat steps 3 to 9 until the positive affirmation feels true

Old beliefs die hard. It’s normal to cycle through the same issue a million times before you feel at peace with it. Each time you visit an emotional wound, you heal a little bit more.

Ultimately, proving our worthiness to ourselves or others has its limits though. Our inner critic tends to never be satisfied. That’s why it’s far more fulfilling to accept our shadow self. 

If you have trouble using positive affirmations…

Steps 5 to 8 are the most challenging. Don’t sweat it. Expect setbacks and try one of these tips below.

  • Do NOT force yourself to think positively. It seems counterintuitive, but you won’t make progress if it feels fake. Allowing negative thoughts to flow heals, not self-deception 

  • Embrace your negative thoughts. Breathe deeply and listen lovingly to your negative thoughts as if you were holding a child crying over her bad day.

  • Reframe your past. It’s not easy to sit with pain from a negative experience. Ask yourself, What has this experience taught me? Nothing is ever lost. Apply those lessons to your life and harvest the benefits.

  • Be patient. Remember, you’re undoing years of old habits. Changing your mindset takes time and practice.

  • Reach out for support. We all need support to overcome obstacles. 

 

So, are positive affirmations worth the effort?

Without doubt, yes practicing being present etc. is helpful. If we use them as a tool to understand ourselves better, positive affirmations can shine some light on what needs to heal and which beliefs hold us back.

Forcing ourselves to fit into a positive affirmation is like squeezing ourselves into a pair of too-small jeans. Then having the button fly off and ricochet us in the head.

Please don’t blind yourself.

Instead, use positive affirmations to gauge your mindset.

Accept where you are. Observe your thoughts and feelings and you'll begin to xyz.