The Key to Self-Esteem

In therapy, we talk a lot about positive affirmations. It is often use as a tool to replace negative beliefs. For instance, if, deep down, one believes “I’m a loser” then we would find an positive affirmation to off-set this core belief. Notice that this negative belief is very precise and definitive – there is no ambiguity. This means that the offsetting positive affirmation must be at least as powerful. “I am awesome” is much more powerful than “I could be awesome”. The latter insinuates that there is the POTENTIAL to be awesome, but awesomeness has not yet been achieved. This is a subtle but important distinction. There seems to be no wishy-washyness at all in our negative statements. Think to the last time you made a big mistake. What was your ANT (automatic negative thought)? I bet you were tough on yourself. But a funny thing about people: we seem to very ambiguous when it comes to positive statements about ourselves. Now, when choosing a positive affirmation, I always think of buying clothes for a child. Do you buy the kid the size they currently wear? No! Of course not. You buy the clothes that are a little too big so they can grow into them.
Using the previous example, if you currently have the belief “I’m a loser”, then saying the positive affirmation “I am awesome” may feel like an outright lie and thereby negates its usefulness. “I’m ok” might feel like a better fit. I am providing you with a suggested continuum that might help you decide which positive affirmation might be right for you. Again, this continuum is only a suggestion. You might use other words or even have the words in a different order. Don’t get too hung up on this. Just pick a positive affirmation that feels like a bit of a stretch for you. Repeat the affirmation many times throughout the day. The more you say it, the more comfortable you will get in saying it. Once it feels true, feel free to pick a NEW positive affirmation. We’ll have you up to AWESOME in no time.

Frank Clayton
Licensed Professional Counselor and teacher of Happiness 101

Affirmation Continuum

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