Negativity Rules Our Thoughts
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m not smart enough.”
“I can’t do it.”
“I’m just not beautiful.”
“I’m not talented.”
In our society, it’s generally expected for people to practice self-deprecation. We are expected to respond to a compliment with denial, or avoid talking too nicely about ourselves for fear of sounding narcissistic. Saying “I am beautiful” seems egotistical, and saying “I can do it” seems campy and naive.
Thanks to this societal norm, negative thoughts swirl through our minds day and night. We say them out loud. We even start to boast about how awful we are at certain tasks and try to one up each other. It’s a race to the bottom.
Words Become Reality
Even if you don’t necessarily believe that you are stupid, incapable, or ugly, the words you say will begin to sink in thanks to cognitive dissonance. Essentially, cognitive dissonance is where you hold inconsistent beliefs or attitudes. You say one thing but believe another. Your brain doesn’t like cognitive dissonance, and will actively work to fix the inconsistency and regain balance. That means it will adjust your behaviors or your beliefs, and it’s usually much easier to alter beliefs.
For example, if you say “I can’t draw” jokingly over and over again, your brain will form a belief that you are wholly incapable of drawing – and you will never try. If you say “I’m bad a math”, you will grow to expect math problems to be beyond your reach- and you will never try.
Saying negative things over and over leads to a gigantic shift in your attitude, and you begin to live that negativity. That negativity can affect you in many ways, but one of the most prevalent is that it will keep you in a nasty cycle of procrastination. Negativity and procrastination are intimately linked. If you can fix this, then you have taken great steps towards freeing yourself from the tight grip of procrastination.
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Fight the Negative with Positive
But how do you fix this? The answer is obvious. Use cognitive dissonance as a tool for success! If you believe that you can’t draw, then begin to say “I can learn to draw.” Say it loud. Say it with emphasis. Look in the mirror and say it to yourself.
“I can learn to draw.”
That is an affirmation. This incredibly simple method is a powerful tool for changing your attitude for the better. Turn your can’ts into cans. Flip the negative to a positive. Make affirmations a daily habit and begin to take better care of yourself today.
How to Write and Say Affirmations
Writing affirmations is easy, but here’s a few crucial steps to getting the most out of your positive self talk:
- Keep it in the present. That means that instead of “I will learn brush lettering“, make it “I am learning brush lettering.” The reason you should avoid future tenses with your affirmations is because you don’t want to send signals to your brain to wait until tomorrow. You will begin to think of everything in the ever-unreachable future. Make it a statement of now, and you will feel yourself taking action.
- Keep it short. If you want to repeat it to yourself over and over again, you don’t want it to be long and complicated!
- Say it loud and proud. I don’t care how weird you feel or how awkward it seems. If you whisper your affirmation meekly to yourself, then it isn’t a declaration of a bold, confident, talented person. You need to show yourself that you are taking your self care seriously. Basically, fake it till you make it.
- Say it while standing in a confident pose. That means straight spine, shoulders back, and with your head held high. Just like before, you need to show yourself with words and body language that you mean what you say. Try making yourself as big as possible, or stand in a superhero pose. Some psychologists believe this can lead to a measurable increase in confidence. Check out this Ted Talk to learn more about it!
The Affirmation Log
I’ve decided to take my affirmations seriously by creating an Affirmation Log. The concept is extremely basic and easy enough for anyone to pick it up. When I fill out my habit tracker and gratitude log each night, I turn to my Affirmation Log and think back on my day. What did I struggle with? What negative self talk did I do today? I figure out what I was feeling insecure or unhappy about and I flip it around into a positive. Then I write down my affirmation, say it out loud a few times, and go to bed.
The next day, I repeat the affirmation to myself any time I find myself feeling doubtful or worried. When I look in the mirror, I tell myself my affirmation loudly. It becomes my mantra for the day and I try my best to live it. I tell it to my dog when I see her. I say it every time I am in the bathroom. Then, that night, I write a new affirmation or keep the same one if I still need it. The affirmation could change every day, or I can keep the same affirmation indefinitely if I still want to work on that aspect of my attitude.
Rinse, repeat. Every day.
How I Set Up My Affirmation Log
While you could write this anywhere, I like keeping mine with my various monthly trackers and logs in my bullet journal. I have found that the best way to start a new habit is to marry it with an existing habit. For me, that means putting it right alongside my other trackers that I religiously fill out every night. Okay, most nights. But I’m pretty consistent!
I set my Affirmation Log right alongside my memory page. I had a general theme going with my monthly log for June, so I continued it with Hydrus Watercolors (which you can see how I use them here). Then I lined it all with my Pigma Micron pen.
It’s totally not necessary to go out and make this page pretty, but I’ve found that I’m more consistent with using a log every day if it’s easy on the eye. Also, this page is all about celebrating you and how awesome you are! Feel free to make it fun and beautiful, even if you don’t normally go for elaborate styles.
Start Positive Change by Being the Positive Change
Whether you are trying to learn a skill, grow a hobby, lose weight, raise a child, or do just about anything else that is challenging, then you need an Affirmation Log. You can’t expect to build an exercise habit by constantly belittling yourself. You can’t move forward as a creative until you stop criticizing yourself at every turn. If you are trying to build yourself up into a better person, then stop tearing yourself down. Start using affirmations, and say them boldly to yourself and to others. Your cognitive dissonance will swing the other way, and you will start to believe that you are every bit as awesome as you truly are.
Be bold and creative. Be smart and charismatic and athletic and everything you’ve ever wanted to be. But most importantly, be unapologetic. Don’t be worried about what other people think. Our society is evolving, slowly but surely, into one that is more accepting of unapologetic positivity. Be a part of that evolution by creating an Affirmation Log and loving yourself each and every day. Because “can” is so much more beautiful than “can’t”.