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Here's why affirmations are not making you feel better (& what actually does)

If they work for you, then great, all the power to you. But for a lot of people - like me - they don't. If you can relate, then keep reading.

Woman holding a piece of mirror reflecting only one eye
Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

I'm sure you've heard about affirmations as a strategy to deal with difficult emotions or negative self-beliefs. They are, in their vast majority, positive statements we repeat to ourselves, aimed at changing our thought patterns, lifting our mood, and aiding us in handling negative emotions.

I'm not a fan, and I'll tell you why.

If you've been trying affirmations only to get frustrated because they don't help you feel better, know that you're not alone.

Let's explore why affirmations might not be working for you, and review some alternate coping strategies for managing emotional discomfort.

Why affirmations don't always work

  1. They lack depth: Generic affirmations are not enough to create lasting change, simply because our negative thought patterns and self-beliefs are stories deeply rooted into the narrative of who we are. Affirmations can be effective to remind yourself that it's possible to change your narrative, and to provide just enough relief for the short term, but they are a surface level solution that could actually delaying you from effecting lasting change.

  2. They're distractions: The biggest problem with affirmations is that they are an attempt to push down how you really feel. In other words, they're distractions. It's like covering a hole on the wall with a beautiful painting: the hole, though covered, is still there, and you'll have to face it again sooner or later. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for distractions, and they can be effective to bring momentary relief, but if you want lasting change, you will need more.

  3. Toxic positivity: Focusing on affirmations puts pressure on us to feel “happy” and calm all the time, which is not realistic. Not only they don't create real happiness, they leave no room for processing genuine emotions that need attention.

When you're feeling overwhelmed, here are better strategies to try instead

  1. Honouring your feelings: Instead of immediately trying to replace uncomfortable feelings with generic positivity, allowing yourself to truly acknowledge and feel them is the only thing that will bring you lasting relief. Emotions and feelings that go repressed or unacknowledged become taboo, further accentuating the cycle of disconnection from self. Give yourself permission to feel however you need to, knowing that there is a deeper meaning behind it. Learn to trust that emotions come and go, and feelings bring messages of your unmet emotional needs.

  2. Talk to someone who cares: That could be a friend, a partner, a therapist, as long as it's someone who can be truly present with you, and ideally will not try to immediately "cheer you up” with distractions.

  3. Journalling: Writing it down helps by validating your reality, which brings longer lasting relief. The best thing about journalling is that it's a tool for you to express yourself authentically, while allowing the emotions and feelings to be felt. When writing, remember to not measure your words: you have nothing to prove to anyone. Plus, it has been scientifically proved that writing about difficult experiences helps with emotional processing.

  4. Tune into your unmet emotional needs: Uncomfortable feelings are often an expression of unmet emotional needs. Jealousy of a partner may signify an unmet need for connection or appreciation. Resentment might be pointing to an unmet need for safety or belonging. Frustration in the work environment might indicate an unmet needs for impact or autonomy. So start seeing your difficult feelings and emotions as an opportunity to reconnect with yourself and what you need, instead of seeing them as an inconvenience.

While affirmations may help you feel good in the moment by distracting you from emotional pain, learning to understand how your emotions and feelings are connected with your needs will help you develop self-compassion, while also helping you become better at meeting your emotional needs.

And this is exactly what jornee is about.

Our app has been designed to provide you with a safe space for you to explore your uncomfortable feelings and the emotional needs that might be going unmet.

So if you're ready to reconnect with your genuine self for lasting mental and emotional wellbeing, sign up for early access to the jornee app today.

What do you think about affirmations?

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