Self-Affirmations: Definition, 195 Examples, & Lists
What is self-affirmation in psychology? Learn here about different perspectives on self-affirmation and get a list of self-affirmations to try in your own life.
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Do you struggle to feel sure of yourself? Do people tell you that you lack confidence? Or does negative feedback rattle your sense of self or well-being? Then learning about self-affirmation may be helpful for you. In this article, we'll first talk about self-affirmation in psychology. Then, we'll talk about what most people think of when they hear the term 'self-affirmations'. These explanations can hopefully help you feel more self-assured, resilient, and self-confident.
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What Is Self Affirmation in Psychology? (A Definition)
Each of us faces numerous failures and threats to our self-worth every single day. It seems then that maintaining a sense of ourselves as being good, worthwhile humans would be a huge task that few of us would be successful at. But that's not the case. In fact, some researchers propose that we have a psychological protection system—a system that involves a variety of automatic, defensive mental strategies that protect our self-esteem from plummeting in the face of threats (Sherman & Cohen, 2006). In this context, self-affirmations can involve any process (but usually mental processes) that helps us maintain our self-worth.
For example, humans tend to believe that we are responsible for positive outcomes but we are not responsible for negative outcomes. We also diminish the importance of things we have failed at or things we're not very good at. And, we tend to be overly optimistic about our chances of success, our knowledge, and our competence (Sherman & Cohen, 2006). All of these "rationalizations" actually help us maintain our self-worth. So even though psychologists talk about these defensive self-affirmation strategies with a somewhat critical tone, all-in-all, this psychological process is necessary for us to maintain our sense of self and our well-being.
What is Self Affirmation Theory in psychology?
Self-affirmation theory emerges from a collection of research studies showing that we are motivated to maintain our sense of self in the face of threats. We do so in both defensive and in healthy ways (Sherman & Cohen, 2006).
Self-Affirmation Theory takes this one step further by suggesting that when our self-esteem is threatened, we sometimes affirm other parts of ourselves unrelated to the threat or do things that make us feel good about other aspects of ourselves to protect our self-esteem. When we do this, it helps us realize that our self-worth is not contingent on whatever negative feedback or experience we're having right now. As a result, we might be less likely to be defensive, distort information to fit our worldview, and we can better tolerate threats to our self-esteem (Sherman & Cohen, 2006).
How To Use Self Affirmations
According to psychologists, we can "self-affirm"—or protect our sense of self—by engaging in activities that remind us of who we are. These self-affirmations can involve family, friends, volunteer work, religion, art and music, or other activities that are central to how we see ourselves (Sherman & Cohen, 2006).
In psychological studies of self-affirmation, people are asked to:
So when you're self-worth takes a hit—for example, after rejection, negative feedback, or failure—try doing this activity and reflect on how it makes you feel. Research suggests it can protect your self-esteem, help buffer the effects of stress, and even reduce rumination (Sherman & Cohen, 2006).
What Are Self Affirmations in Popular Psychology? (A Definition)
You've just learned all about Self-Affirmation Theory and although popular psychology (or "pop-psychology") has defined self-affirmation in a similar way, there are some important differences to be aware of. Affirmations in pop-psychology can be defined as statements that we repeat to ourselves to help us shift the way we're thinking to be more positive. Very often these affirmations are used to shift the way we're thinking about ourselves to be more positive, and these statements are often called self-affirmations.
The main difference I see between these two definitions is that the self-affirmations used by pop-psychology do not seem to bring attention to core values. In fact, they seem to focus more on changing our beliefs or thoughts about ourselves.
For example, if we've just been rejected by a potential romantic partner, we might say the affirmation, "I am worthy of love." Or, if we're struggling in our career, we might say the affirmation, "I am capable of success." These examples highlight how self-affirmations in popular psychology kind of merge our automatic defensive reactions to self-esteem threats and remind us to focus on the good things about ourselves.
In my opinion, this method is equally valid, especially given other research that shows the benefits of things like optimism and positive thinking, it's just a different strategy.
Video: Guided Self-Affirmations
Self Affirmation Lists
If you'd like to give self-affirmations a try, here are some lists to get you started. Just choose a statement that represents how you want to think—it's even better if this statement also affirms your values. Then, say it to yourself using these guidelines:
Self Affirmations for Confidence
Self Affirmations for Self-Love
Video: Guided Self-Worth Daily Affirmations
Self Affirmations in the Morning
Try these affirmations to start your day on the right foot.
Self Affirmations Before Sleep
Try these affirmations to end your day and get to sleep.
Video: Reprogram Your Mind While You Sleep with Positive Affirmations for Self Love
Self Affirmation Questions
Do you want to create some more of your own self-affirmations? Here are questions (or fill-in-the-blanks) to reflect on to help you explore what matters to you and get your mind thinking in new and different directions.
Self-affirmations using positive emotions
You could remind yourself of your values, goals, and emotions with these emotion-focused self-affirmations.
More Words of Self Affirmation
You can also make an affirmation out of any positive personality trait of yours. Here are a bunch to explore. Just see which ones resonate with you.
More Articles Related to Self-Worth
Want to learn about more strategies that can boost self-worth and self-esteem. Here are a few more articles to check out.
Books on Affirmations
Want even more self-affirmations? Here are some books to explore:
Finding ways to maintain our self-worth is a worthwhile endeavor. Self-affirmations are just one way, but they are indeed a fairly easy strategy to practice and use in daily life.