Back in 2001, when my marriage broke down, I started reading every self-help book I could get my hands on.

I knew that my mindset had a lot to do with why my life was in the toilet, and I was determined to fix it.

As I read my books and tried various techniques, I became so fascinated with the mind that I decided to make a career out of it, by studying hypnosis.

At the same time, I was reading about the power of positive affirmations, and I decided it would be a great idea to establish a daily practice to see if I could make some shifts in my life.

For several weeks, I religiously repeated my carefully chosen positive statements over and over again; but as the weeks went by, instead of feeling more empowered, I started to feel more and more anxious.

When I explained what was happening to my mentor, her advice was to stop practising the affirmations. I didn’t really like that idea, but I took her advice anyway; and lo and behold, the anxiety went away.

It was years later that I discovered why this was so. You see, it’s not that affirmations ‘don’t work’ per se…it’s that if you practise them incorrectly, they will have the opposite effect.

Here’s why:

How Energy Works

In any given day, you are attracting situations and events into your life, based on the thoughts you’re thinking and in turn, the feelings that come from those thoughts.

In other words, thoughts create things.

But contrary to popular belief, it’s not the words you say or even the thoughts you think that matter; it’s the emotions that come from those words and thoughts that ultimately determine what will show up in your life.

It’s pretty simple, really; when you feel good, good things come to you. When you feel bad, the opposite is true.
In other words, the Universe doesn’t respond to your words; it responds to your emotions. Here’s an example:

You Can’t Get To Self-Love from Self-Loathing

Let’s say you have zero confidence and you want to feel better about yourself.If you do a search on the internet, you’ll find that one of the most popular affirmations for self-love is the statement: ‘I love and accept myself exactly as I am.’

Sounds pretty good, right? Who doesn’t want to have unfaltering self-love?

Only, here’s the thing:

Most of us aren’t even remotely in that ballpark. We have this relentless ‘inner critic’ which is coming at us all day, every day, with reasons why we don’t measure up and we’ll never be good enough.

So, if like many people who struggle with low self-esteem, you’ve been beating yourself up for most of your life, not only are you not going to believe that statement, it’ll probably make you feel really irritated, because it’s so far off from where you are that you can’t even begin to accept that statement as true.

In this situation, saying that statement will make actually make you feel worse about yourself. In other words, it won’t ease the feelings of unworthiness; it will amplify them.

Make It Believable

Repeating positive affirmations can change your beliefs and vastly improve your life; but you have to practise them correctly.

To use the example I mentioned previously, you just can’t get from self-loathing to self-love in one hit.

You have to ease your way into better feeling thoughts. By starting off with softer, more believable statements, your brain doesn’t have to deal with the confrontation and the triggering of bad feelings in order to maintain the status quo.

When you’re struggling with negative self-talk that overwhelms you, you have to give yourself a chance to move up the emotional scale slowly and steadily.

Here’s how you do it:

Instead of reaching for a statement that is totally out of reach, you could say something like: ‘I like the idea that I can train my mind to feel better about myself.’

Make It Feel Good

The affirmations you choose should not make you feel worse. If they do, it’s a clear indication that you’re reaching way too far, and you need to step it back a notch.

The goal of affirmations is to get you feeling better so that with regular practise, you’ll remove your unwanted beliefs.

Choose statements that are believable and that ease you into a better feeling place.

In the meantime, keep going; reach slowly and steadily for feelings of happiness and wellbeing in your day to day life.

Author's Bio: 

Author, Freelance writer