Change Becomes You
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Change Becomes You

Positive Self-Talk Doesn’t Really Work

What to do instead.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Positive affirmations” are self-talk techniques. They are statements like “I am strong”, “I am grateful, and “I’m free to create the life I desire” meant to be repeated daily. People who use affirmations aim to reverse the limiting belief “I am not enough.”

Affirmations usually come as recordings to be listened to daily, writing routines every morning (a bit like the punishment we got in school), or phone reminders every two hours reading: “I am worthy”.

This reprogramming relies on word repetition. Repetition might be the mother of learning, but mostly of textbook learning. It’s shallow learning, it speaks to the conscious mind, and for this reason it’s also easy to forget.

For instance, do you remember any of the French you learned in middle school? Probably not.

Contrary to this, experiential learning is the equivalent of using French in the real world after middle school. It requires being present and actively engaged with what’s out there. This deep type of learning speaks to and trains the unconscious mind to believe what (appears to be what) we believe.

Holding onto any form of irrational yet persistent “not-enough-ness” comes from experiential learning — usually from incidents in childhood. Using textbook learning, like the mantric repetition of “I am enough”, to fix this perceived inadequacy engrained in the unconscious mind doesn’t do much.

In fact, it is secretly putting us in conflict with ourselves, which (like any other confrontation) is experienced as anxiety.

After some tries, most people abandon practicing affirmative self-talk because it usually doesn’t work, certainly not fast, and if it does, its effects live short.

So, what to do instead?

1. What if, instead of affirmative statements, we questioned the limiting belief?

Instead of affirming that “I am at ease when meeting new people” to respond to a belief that “I am an introvert”, it would be more powerful to ask:

“Can I really not handle meeting new people?”

“Am I really that bad at finding others interesting?”

“Am I really scared of meeting others?”

When questioning, we do not fight against our unconscious mind. We come from a place of humbleness and self-compassion.

Once the unconscious mind buys the message, it becomes a powerful ally of the conscious mind in achieving what we wish.

2. The response comes in the form of a hopeful message to our unconscious mind.

Hope exists in the present future. We have hope now for things (or us) being different in the moment to come.

By questioning, we visualise ourselves in a future waiting to happen. When we ask “Am I really scared of meeting others?” unavoidably the option that “no, I am not really scared” arises.

It creates hope, to say the least.

We could see past the state of “being scared to meet others” and awaken in the same old but new place, where, in fact, we haven’t been scared all along.

Maybe we were just pretending?

3. Stay with the question

“Am I really scared of meeting others?”

Such questions do not have a right or wrong answer. Who cares eitherway? The question is not meant to be answered with words into our heads (textbook learning).

It presents to us a choice. And it is meant to be put as action into the real world, the one out of our heads, where experiential learning happens.

Where we call the shots.




Life advice that will (actually) change your life. Curated stories from The Good Men Project.

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Yorgos Altintzis

Yorgos Altintzis

I love airports. Gili lives in me.

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