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What are affirmations?

Affirmations are positive things that we say about ourselves to combat the effects of negative thoughts and self-sabotaging. This comes from Self-Affirmation Theory, which was coined by Claude Steele (1988). Self-AffirmationTheory proposes that as individuals we want to keep a positive self-image. So, when we experience a stressful situation which threatens our self-image, we try to protect our self-image by stating positive things about ourselves. For example, individuals who advocate for healthy eating but often eat unhealthy foods may experience cognitive dissonance, and will in turn try to counteract that dissonance by reminding themselves how much they work out. 

How do affirmations affect my well-being?

In the same way that self-affirmations can help protect our self-image when something threatens them, many therapists and researchers believe that they can help us restore positive views about ourselves.The goal of self-affirmations is to consistently repeat them until we see positive change. Although many individuals think that affirmations are unrealistic, the truth is that it is actually not that unrealistic. Research suggests that affirmations have positive impacts on us, but we have to believe the affirmations for them to make an impact. For example, when we receive positive feedback at work, we may feel more motivated to perform better and may even be more productive. It works the same way for self-affirmations, the more we practice saying positive things about ourselves, the more we can believe them, and more we can combat things like low self-esteem, stress, and other forms of self-sabotaging.

How can I practice self-affirmations?

The key to starting affirmations is to identify some that are meaningful to you. These affirmations should be tailored to your needs and specific areas you would like to work on.The next step is to start a routine in which you engage in self-affirmations. This could be a few minutes before bed or after waking up. Some people find it helpful to have affirmation jars where they can create meaningful affirmations that they pull randomly each day and integrate into that day. One of the most important factors to consider while practicing affirmations is to turn the affirmations into meaningful actions (like practicing what you preach). For instance, if you want to believe you are worthy of love, it is important to not deny yourself things like time with friends or going on dates. Finally, it is important to remember that consistency is key. You may not notice changes right, but with time you will. Your therapist can also help you create and implement affirmations as well as helping you challenge your inner saboteur. 

Reference: Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 21, pp. 261-302). Academic Press. 

This page is part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.