True story from the department of ironically-titled books—there’s a book called Self-Esteem for Dummies.
While I want to assure you that no one reading these words is actually a “dummy,” it is a lovely and even freeing thought to recognize that each of us can benefit from some guidance when it comes to treating ourselves with gentleness, kindness and compassion.
One practice that stands out among self-esteem boosters is that of positive affirmation—regularly and intentionally reciting to yourself words that affirm your inherent dignity, worth and authentically positive self. Making the decision to start a positive affirmation practice is important—but once done, how do you decide what your affirmation should be?
The authors of Self-Esteem for Dummies have suggestions for how to write an affirmation that meets you where you are, lifts up your excellent qualities and supports you in your ability to face challenges in life. Try these tips to start crafting your affirmation today.
1) Start with the Negative
Yes, you read that right. “Choose one negative thought you have about yourself and write down the positive opposite that counteracts that belief,” the authors S. Renee Smith and Vivian Harte said. Be careful to steer clear of the impulse to erase challenges altogether—that’s an example of toxic positivity. But re-framing a negative thought as either demonstrably inaccurate or an opportunity for growth can keep you on track to see yourself as a positive, capable person. For example, “I am a terrible cook” could become “My children like my cooking,” or “I feel motivated to learn to cook.”
2) Use “I” Statements
Your affirmation is for you and for you alone—and you should be the first syllable of your positive self-loving statement. Smith and Harte encourage affirmations like “I see my own worth and value” rather than “Positive thoughts are coming to my mind.” Try to avoid “I want” or “I need” statements, though—those are outside the purpose of positive affirmations, which are meant to affirm what you already have—and are grateful for.
3) Set Reasonable Expectations
You might get the most benefit from affirmations that celebrate the journey you’re on, not the destinations you’ve reached. Using phrases like, “I am open to…” or “I believe I can…” support a positive outlook that doesn’t require you to have already met your goals to be worthy and important.
4) Keep It Short
You can affirm your self-worth in just four or five words, say Smith and Harte. Take some time to write down a number of candidates for your “winning” affirmation, then look at your list and notice what your options have in common, and which specific ideas give you that soul-nourishing gut reaction.
What positive affirmation would lift your spirits today?