Why Affirmations Don’t Work

Did you hear that collective gasp?


An affirmation is a declaration that something is true and declarations, properly formed, can be very powerful and effective at getting you from point A to point B in your life.

So am I trying to say that The Secret and Norman Vincent Peale and Zig Ziglar and {insert your favorite self-help guru here} got it all wrong about affirmations? Not exactly.

Still, I’m not alone in this. The Journal of Psychological Science published a study done by Dr. Joanne Wood of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, entitled “Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others”. The study concluded that “repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, such as individuals with high self-esteem, but backfire for the very people who need them the most.”

To quote Albert Einstein, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” The wisdom that can be drawn from this study is that people are attempting to make affirmations simpler than they are. It’s kind of ridiculous, because they are pretty darn simple to begin with.

The thing that causes all the problems is leaving the affirmer (you) out of the equation. After all, you are the context of your affirmations, the observer as well as the participant.

So here is how you render an affirmation useless:

Come up with a high quality affirmation. (That’s right, the excuse is not going to be that the affirmation itself was poorly constructed.)
Start reading it aloud to yourself in the mirror several times a day. (No lack of diligence to point to.)
Realize that you just plain don’t believe it. (Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!)
Keep doing it anyway. (And reinforce the failure.)
The study noted earlier points out how affirmations fail for those most in need. It even hypothesizes why. But what it doesn’t do is explain how to fix the problem.

The solution is Einstein simple. You must engage with the part of you that is in disagreement with the affirmation. Give your mind/ego/reptilian brain the chance to have its say.

Here’s how. Let’s start with a desirable affirmation:

“I am currently enjoying my light and agile weight at 178 pounds.”

You do not presently believe this, being a Cheeto-stained, sluggish 260 pounds. So every time you repeat this affirmation, your brain comes back with, “Yeah right, you couch-surfing slug.” And that, my friends, turns out to be the real affirmation you affirm. That’s the secret no one tells you: affirmations work just as well if the outcome is highly undesirable. In fact, most people are repeating negative affirmations all the time:

“I am so stupid. ”

“I can’t seem to get up in the morning.”

“I’ll never quit smoking.”

And boy, do they work. The difference is that the affirmer believes these statements heart and soul. So they come to be.

So how do you give your brain its say without affirming its self-defeated outlook? By adding a simple step and being mindful of your reaction.

If you know that your mind is not going to accept your affirmation without push back, start off different:

“Even though I am presently 260 pounds…

And even though I haven’t gotten to the gym just yet…

I am open to the possibility that I can enjoy my body at a light and agile 178 pounds.”

Put as many statements about your present state as your ego requires to feel heard. Repeat it more than once if need be. When you feel you can, dial it back:

“Even though I only now just joined the gym…

I am open to the possibility that I can enjoy my body at a light and agile 178 pounds.”

Finally, when you feel you can let it go, just repeat:

“I am open to the possibility that I can enjoy my body at a light and agile 178 pounds.”

The day will come, sooner than you might think, when you can go with and stay with your original affirmation without all the nods to a doubting mind. You have to show some respect for your poor little mind. After all, it is just trying to protect you from disappointment and pain. So show it that respect but don’t let it take charge.

One other important adjustment to make is to use the phrasing “I am open to the possibility” rather than the more direct “I am”. Even a doubting mind can be open to a possibility. It gets you over that final hurdle so you can have an affirmation both your spirit and your ego can agree on. 

Husband and a father of 2 Beautiful Daughters,i have a passion in helping people achieve their dreams,Thank you to everyone that followed my blog over the years, and to the countless e-mails from people all over the world that pushed me to continue my research on the Law Of Attraction,we finally Cracked the Code!

3 thoughts on “Why Affirmations Don’t Work

  1. huo says:

    hi daniel, i am huo from indonesia. i feel interesting in thought elevator, but i have some questions to ask.
    1.what actually erick taller do for job now, is the story in advertisement is real?
    2.what is your relationship with erick taller?
    3.i am indonesian, so there must be a problem with language if i try thought elevator. such as the subliminal message must have been settled in english which not suitable for me and many people in asia. so the point is, will your thought elevator work well for asian people as american?

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