What Are You Affirming?

affirmations change mindfulness neuroscience perspective subconscious Oct 11, 2020

You probably think that saying affirmations is a bit “woo-woo” and that people who say daily affirmations are just wishful thinkers, right? After all, how could repeating a couple of positive words or a phrase help anything? It’s just like wishing on a star or blowing out the birthday candles. In mean, how often do those wishes ever actually come true?

The truth is, though, that affirmations are very different from wishes, and, whether we do it intentionally or not, we are ALL saying affirmations pretty much every single day.

Not you, you say? Well, you’re going to want to hear me out on this.

Think about this for a minute. How often do you say things like…

I’m so fat.

I’m so clumsy.

I’m so dumb.

I’m so forgetful.

I’m so old.


I imagine that you feel like you are one or two of those things. I’ll also go out on a limb and say that you’ve been saying those things for a long time. Maybe others even started calling you “clumsy” during childhood or someone along the way called you “fat” or “dumb.” Then those things stuck and you have continued to repeat them (saying them out loud or thinking them to yourself), often without even realizing it because it simply became a habit.

Now consider how many times you have said something like…

I’m never going to have the money.

I’ll never understand how to…

I’ll never be able to learn how to…

I’m never going to be able to...

I’ll never have such an amazing relationship as that.

I know that will never happen.


I’m going to guess that you may have experienced any combination of those statements in your life, so so far they have proven to be “true.” However, the “never” part really applies to the future and since you won’t know until you get there, let’s agree that the statements may or may not be true at some point in the future. But from what you’ve experienced so far, it continues to be true so you keep saying and thinking it to be true.

I would also imagine that you don’t really WANT any of the above statements from either group to be true. Right?

You may be wondering why this is such a big deal. These are all harmless statements uttered as a joke or an explanation of why.

These so-called harmless statements, though, are not so harmless and are a pretty big deal. Let’s dive a little deeper and I’ll explain.

Every thought we think, experience we have, everything we say or hear – everything – makes an impression on us, especially in our brains. And the more we think or experience something, the bigger the impression made in our brains. That’s because neuropathways are formed.

Neuropathways are formed based on all of our thoughts, and those neuropathways become thicker and thicker each time the idea is thought or the experience is had, similar to the evolution of a walking path as it develops in the grass the more people walk it. This happens so that your brain can become more efficient. For example, think about driving to the store or to work. How many times have you arrived at your destination and don’t even remember driving there? That is the result of some very well-established neuropathways.

Those pathways form because your brain recognizes that you’ve done that before, so it creates the wiring so that you can do it again without even thinking about it, thereby freeing up your brain to think about other stuff.

This becomes the subconscious thinking that is running in the background of your mind and you are likely completely unaware of it.

So, if you continue to say (or think) that you are fat or clumsy or forgetful, you are going to be establishing neuropathways to support those thoughts. These statements and beliefs will become wired in your brain. Your brain will literally, physically develop a subconscious program to support that thinking or those behaviors.

And when your subconscious mind is running a program that is telling you that you will never have enough money or will never have the amazing relationship you desire or that something you want will never happen, guess what direction your actions will go.

In other words, you end up making all of those affirmations come true.

That’s right. Just because you weren’t intentionally looking yourself in the eye in the mirror every morning and saying these things doesn’t mean that your brain wasn’t listening and wiring itself to “help you.”

And with this subconscious program running in the background, you are so much more likely to continue to make choices that will continue to validate what you have been saying, thinking, hearing and feeling. Then, of course, you will continue to say, think and feel those things that will continue to reinforce your brain’s wiring… It’s a vicious cycle.

So, how do you break this cycle? How can we rewire our brains to change the subconscious program?

Don’t worry. You can change it!

The first step is to look at your life and answer a few questions.

  • What in your life is working the way that you want it to work?
  • What is not working?
  • Where are you feeling unhappy?
  • What needs to change?

First of all, celebrate where things are going well for you!

Then dig deep on what isn’t working or where you want it to be and get specific on what exactly that means. For example, if you have been saying that there’s never enough time and I’m so fat, maybe you identify that you have been giving up a lot of time for what other people want and that you have been neglecting time for you to exercise and cook healthy meals, which has been taking a toll on you physically.

Second, become consciously aware of your subconscious programming by paying attention to the words and phrasing that you are using. Words matter!

Acknowledge the statements that you have been making and the thoughts you have been thinking that have been affirming what it is that you do not want. Knowledge is definitely power here.

As you begin to recognize what you have been saying, or when you catch yourself doing the same going forward, stop to ask yourself:

  •        Is this actually – factually – true?
  •        Is this something I want to be true in my life?
  •        Would you talk to your friend (or anyone!) like that?
  •        Is there any value added by making that statement?
  •        How would I feel if I stopped saying this?

If it isn’t fully true (“never” and “always” are good clues it’s not!) and you wouldn’t say it to a friend because it would be hurtful, then STOP SAYING IT! It is not something that is bringing any positive value to your life so decide to cut out those statements and thoughts by practicing being intentional with your words. Often we are essentially betting against ourselves. Why would anyone want to do that??

And the third step is to change your wording so that you begin to affirm what you DO want.

Obviously, you can identify what you do want and then create positive wording around that, but let’s talk about reframing any negative statements that you’ve been affirming.

Here are a couple examples: 

  • Instead of: I never have good luck dating. I’m unlucky in love. The people I attract are always…
  • Try saying: I’ve learned a lot in my experiences dating, so I am much clearer on what I want in a relationship. I look forward to my next relationship.


  • Instead of: I’ll never be able to do that. That will never happen for me. I’m never going to have enough money.
  • Try saying: I wonder what it would take to make that happen. How can I break that down into steps that I can do to make that happen?

Think about how you would feel, even two weeks from now, if you replaced “I’m so fat” with “I love my body and make healthy choices that nourish my body!

There is no way that using negative wording against yourself or your dreams will ever help motivate you to do the things you need to do to reach your goals and dreams and to live the truly joyful life that you deserve and have been dreaming of. And, just because something has been true in the past or may be true right now, does NOT mean that it is destined to be true in the future.

So what affirmations (or updated wording, if you prefer) could you create around what it is that you want? What can you say to rewire your subconscious thinking?

You have a choice. What will you affirm?

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