A 10-year-old boy lay anxious on my chiropractic table. I could almost hear his thoughts, “I’ve got this. I am brave.” I could feel his anxiety, so I spent the next five minutes gently rubbing his neck trying to soothe him. I could tell he was working internally to find courage. Eventually he calmed himself, and I was able to adjust his neck.
Can you relate to this boy? Public speaking, starting a new class, and getting lost in a city after my phone had died are times I remember feeling similarly. I would tell myself, “I’ve got this. “I can do this.”
Research tells us one of the most powerful ways to get our minds right in a stressful experience is to practice something called the, “Self-Affirmation Theory.” Psychologists found that subjects who reflected on their core values right before a stressful experience had a decreased stress-response and increased self-esteem. When we are aware of and living consistent with our values we stand strong in our self and personal power.
What are Self-affirmations?
Self-affirmations are positive statements you say about yourself to yourself. Often they are used to overcome negative thinking, prepare for a performance, and general self development. The theory is that when you say and believe the affirmations, stress can decrease and the areas in your life that are stuck start moving again.
My Experience with Affirmations
I was introduced to affirmations 15 years ago by my chiropractor. She suggested I incorporate self-affirmations into my daily routine to help shift the patterns of tension I was carrying in my body. She educated me on “chi” and explained that energy is supposed to flow easily throughout the body (think water moving through pipes), but running the same patterns and habits on repeat causes energy to become stagnant in the body. This can also contribute to pain in those areas of the body.
After my appointment I began my days by reading the sticky note she gave me, “I love and accept myself exactly as I am.” “I love and accept myself exactly as I am.” Boy did this feel silly and awkward! To think that a post-it note was going to change years of self-denial was laughable. It seemed that the more I read it, the more I resisted the message.
I was skeptical about self-talk, but I was fascinated by the concept. I started to read everything I could on affirmations. There were books and books about people changing their minds, beliefs and conditioning by talking to themselves. I continued to use affirmations every morning regardless of whether I observed any immediate changes in my life. The books I read emphasized that repetition is important, and that learning to believe the affirmation happens overtime. When you feel less awkward and start to actually believe “I am beautiful” or whatever the affirmation is, it means the change is starting to take place.
Repetition—The Key to Affirmations
If you’ve dabbled in affirmations, you’ve probably heard of Louise Hay. I incorporated two of her books, “You Can Heal your Life” and “You Can Heal Your Body” into my life little by little. I felt at peace while repeating some affirmations as if they were engrained in me as truths already. Others made me feel like I was lying to myself. “I am confident” felt easy whereas “I am worthy” felt phony. Louise Hay’s work suggests “I am worthy” would be a belief I lack, and by repeating “I am worthy,” I could change my inner programing to eventually believe the affirmation.
Repetition made sense to me. In CNS class (central nervous system) I learned that the more the brain repeats a particular pathway, the deeper the pattern becomes embedded in the brain/system/human. It becomes practically automatic for the brain to act, think, or believe what it repeats. This is the fundamentals of human conditioning.
Repeating affirmations can deepen beliefs, but I needed more than “I am worthy.” I discovered an efficient approach to changing stubborn negative beliefs... surrendering.
Surrendering— An Effective Approach to Changing Stubborn Beliefs
Maybe I hadn’t said it enough, but saying “I am worthy” to myself continued to feel like a lie. As much as I wanted it to feel true, the inner resistance persisted.
Enter Tosha Silver’s “Change Me Prayers.”
The book addresses the imposter feeling I had been having. Silver says surrendering is the missing element in typical affirmations. She says that people become so attached to the result they are after, the changed belief, that their ego subconsciously tries to force the new belief. But forcing change never works, and the old belief pattern continues to persist. I didn’t feel worthy, and lying to myself wasn’t getting me very far either.
Change Me Prayers taught me how to open to the Divine, Universe, Mother Earth, or God instead of beating myself up and overanalyzing what I was doing wrong. I quickly changed the way I used affirmations. Instead of, “I am worthy,” I began surrendering, “Divine, please change me into one who deeply knows her worth and value.” This style of affirmation acknowledged my present belief, my desire, and did not feel phony. By asking something greater than myself for support, I was deepening my trust in the divine order of the universe. In surrendering, I felt this energetic boomerang as if I knew my desire would come to me.
Someone working on body acceptance.
Instead of: I love my body.
Try: Dear Divine, please change me into one who loves her body exactly as it is.
Or: Divine Beloved, please help me accept and love my body exactly as you
designed it to be.
The affirmations/prayers in "Change Me Prayers," include more language which you might find more helpful. Below is the prayer titled "Body":
"Change me Divine Beloved into One who sees the beauty and miraculousness of my own body however it is. Change me into one who always knows my own value and worth in every situation. Teach me how to love myself as you love me. May I shower myself with the love, patience, and acceptance that my own heart longs for and deserves.
May I be deeply kind to myself."
Someone working on being patient.
Instead of: I am patient.
Try: Mother Earth, please change me into one who can wait patiently.
Or: Source, please change me into one who knows how to wait with ease for the right opportunities to come my way.
Below is the prayer titled "Patience" from "Change Me Prayers."
"My Beloved, please change me into One who can trust Your timing. May I peacefully wait according to Your will, knowing that everything happens for y highest evolution. Thank you for protecting me from what I am not yet ready to receive. May I trust that all occurs perfectly on Your Divine schedule."
With a little practice, you can be on your way to surrendering stubborn beliefs.
I created a method to modify any affirmation into this style. Here's how.
Decide who you want to ask for help: The Universe, Source, God, Divine, Mother Earth, a deceased loved one, Jesus, etc.
Choose a belief or affirmation you are trying to bring into your life. Choose one of your own, revisit the list above, or choose one of these: Confidence, Authenticity, Body Acceptance, Clarity, Forgiveness, Compassion.
Complete this template with your choices from above.
Dear _______, please change me into one who ________________.
Notice the affirmations ask for support from a higher power of your choosing. Asking for support creates space for you to trust and then receive. After you ask the Universe for support, your job is to let go and surrender in order to allow the change to occur. Think of ordering delivery food. You call your order in, hang up the phone, and trust your food will be delivered.
Feel free to add or modify the template as you wish. Include more words, but make sure the words resonate with you. You want it to feel like you are asking for support instead of lying to yourself. This style of affirmation requires repetition also, but allowing the change to occur instead of forcing.
Learning to unconditionally love myself and stand strong in my personal power is part of my journey; a journey I'm not alone in. People use self-affirmations to connect self to self, and the rewards of love, confidence, and value are worth more than anything money can buy. (Cheesy but true). "I've got this. I am strong," can connect you to your courage before a performance. And when you are ready to up-level your self-affirmation game and deepen your beliefs, try surrendering. It may feel funny at first, but keep going. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.