Are Affirmations Holding You Back?

Source: Marek Uliasz/123RF

“I am attracting a loving partner who’s ready to commit.”

“I’m moving confidently in the direction of my dreams.”

“Any excess weight comes off my body steadily and easily.”

Affirmations are a way of saying that what we want to be true, is already true. And that’s not a terrible idea.

The use of affirmations is based on the notion that the subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. Therefore, if we tell ourselves something is true, the subconscious mind will do everything it can to create a matching reality.

This works well in theory. But usually, only in theory.

Beliefs vs. Thoughts

The problem is belief. How do we convince ourselves that what we’re affirming is really true?

If all I’ve ever known in relationships is abuse and neglect, my belief about what’s coming down the pike for me – let alone what I deserve – will match that experience. I will tend to end up with abusive or neglectful partners, repeating an unfortunate and very stubborn pattern.

Which do you think is stronger – a belief that’s based on lived experience, or a thought that you decide to think?

Don’t kid yourself. Beliefs are stronger than thoughts. 

Anyone can introduce you to a new thought. But they can’t necessarily make you believe it. If I tell you that you’re the absolute smartest, most attractive person in the entire world, you might appreciate the thought, but how much do you believe it?

A thought is just a thought. Belief is something quite different.

Cognitive Dissonance

The power of belief is even more evident when someone tries to convince you that you’re wrong.

Thanks to cognitive dissonance, if you hold a firm belief, no one’s likely to convince you – even with substantial evidence – that it’s not true. In fact, the harder someone tries to convince you that a cherished belief is false, the more you’ll hang onto that belief.

The beliefs we hold … Those we really, really believe in our heart of hearts … affect us more than the thoughts we choose to think. Unlike affirmations, they’re always with us, even when we’re not thinking about them.

Focusing on things we’d like to see happen does nothing to change entrenched negative beliefs and the life patterns that form around them. Until those beliefs are addressed, affirmations can be a huge waste of time and energy.

Experience Matters

Does this mean we’re stuck with what we’ve got? Not at all.

Our beliefs can change over time, and they can start to help instead of hinder us on our hero’s journey. But we can’t change our beliefs just by wanting to.

Genuine belief, as noted previously, is based on experience. So the key to changing any belief about yourself and your life is to create a different experience.

Let’s say you want to attract a loving, committed partner into your life, but have only dated abusive, neglectful or otherwise unsuitable partners in the past. Take change in stages.

Start by paying attention to your friends. How do they treat you? Are your friends ever abusive, e.g., Are they critical? Do they back-stab? In what ways are your friends neglectful? Do they flake out on plans with you? Are they always late?

Once you’ve examined any abuse or neglect in your friendships, ask yourself which (if any) of your friends express the positive qualities you’re looking for in a romantic partner.

You may have a friend or two who is always kind to you, generous, or a good listener. If you haven’t noticed this before, you’re not fully experiencing what it’s like NOT to be abused or neglected. So begin your search for the right partner by noticing and celebrating truly good friends.

Then cull the herd. Keep only the friends who treat you well. This is critical for those with histories of poor treatment in relationships.

Pay Attention

Once you’ve gotten rid of any so-called friends who neglected or abused you, pay attention to all the good stuff you get from the friends who are left. Notice how it feels to be valued, respected, and cared for. Don’t be in a hurry to find a partner until you give yourself time to absorb this good experience.

When you do start dating, date only people with the qualities you’re looking for. Look for warm, kind, honest, patient, trustworthy, dependable good listeners. Or whatever your version is of someone who treats you well.

They may not be the people you’re normally attracted to, but if you give folks with the right qualities a chance, you’ll experience what it’s like to have a non-abusive, non-neglectful relationship. Affirmations are no substitute for this experience.  

Affirm Reality

The bottom line is that if you want something different, you must do something different. Action beats self-hypnosis

Once you’re on the move in the right direction, affirmations are a wonderful way to record the changes you’re making: “I’m now dating men who appreciate and respect me” is a powerful affirmation, if true.

But until you start creating different experiences for yourself in the real world, don’t waste precious time affirming what you don’t believe.

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