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What are affirmations?


Affirmations are positive things we say about ourselves to combat the effects of negative thoughts and self-sabotaging. This comes from Self-Affirmation Theory, 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 that 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 us, many therapists and researchers believe they can help us restore positive views about ourselves. The goal of self-affirmations is to repeat them until we see positive change. Although many individuals think that the positive effects of affirmations are unrealistic, studies indicate they can have a positive impact. The key is to believe what we are affirming. For example, when we receive positive feedback at work, we may feel more motivated to perform better and 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, in turn, combat things like low self-esteem 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. It would be best if you tailored affirmations to your needs and areas you would like to improve. The next step is to start a routine in which you engage with self-affirmations. It could be a few minutes before bed or after waking up. Some people find it helpful to have a jar filled with affirmations and integrate whatever affirmation they pull randomly into their day. One of the most important factors to consider while practicing affirmations is to turn the affirmations into meaningful actions (i.e., practicing what you preach). For instance, if you want to believe you are worthy of love, it is important not to deny yourself activities like spending time with friends or going on dates. Finally, it is essential to remember that consistency is critical. You may not notice changes right away, but you will with time. Your therapist can also help you create and implement affirmations to help 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 also 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.