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Do Affirmations Really Work


I began as a therapist when affirmations were all the rage, but I never bought into them, used them myself or encouraged clients to do so. Why? Because I thought it was weird that people were trying so hard to convince themselves of their positive attributes.

I had a friend back then who said affirmations a lot—not only said but wrote them down and reread them daily. She hadn’t had a great childhood and certainly needed to do something to raise her self-esteem. When you walked into her bathroom, straight ahead of you was a towel cabinet whose front was covered with her affirmations. You could even see them reflected in the mirror above the sink when you washed your hands.

I don’t recall exactly what hers said, something like, “You are a worthy person, You are lovable, People love you just the way you are, You are deserving of good things in life.” It always struck me as painfully sad that my friend didn’t believe any of these truths. And, worse, that she publicly let people know it by posting the affirmations in the bathroom. She might as well have said, “I really don’t have much self-esteem, do I?”

Recently a client and I had a long talk about the idea of telling yourself how you want to feel, specifically lovable, worthy, and deserving. My goal was for these concepts to become her default setting because she understood that she was all of these things. When you know something, really know it, you don’t need to constantly remind yourself of it, do you: I’m breathing, I’m a woman, I have white hair, I am a psychotherapist. 

That’s where you want to be about knowing you’re lovable, deserving and worthy. If you understand that this should be everyone’s default setting—in spite of our flaws and imperfections—then you’ll understand how you got to not feel these ways about yourself. Someone or many someones must have taught or made you believe that you weren’t lovable, deserving and worthy. We all are these things simply by being born on this planet, no exceptions. You were born here, weren’t you?

I believe that you decide that you’re lovable, deserving and worthy and that’s that, you don’t ever need to think about it again. People may tell you differently and make you feel these things aren’t true, but when you know they are, you simply disregard what they’re saying because you find it laughable and return to your beliefs. 

So, decide to believe you have value and then stop thinking about it. You either do or don’t and it’s time to stop waffling on the issue. The best thing about this conviction is that when you know the truth, you can tell affirmations goodbye.