Positive Affirmations: 3 Reasons Why They Don’t Work

All your life you have been hearing about positive affirmations and the power of positive thinking. Maybe you have even posted phrases on your refrigerator or mirror that say, “I am super rich.” or “I attract only positive people into my life.” But then, when you look around your one bedroom apartment and realize you are having trouble keeping up with the rent and your boss at work is anything but positive, that gap creates even more frustration, guilt, and feelings of failure.  You try to stay positive, to believe it’s coming “someday”, but in the meantime, your life feels stuck and out of touch with your beliefs.

I have been working with affirmations and the power of intention for over thirty years and I can certainly relate to that scenario above. Does that mean we should all just give up on intentions? Should we just throw out the positive and become Debbie Downer? Of course not! There is plenty of evidence that positive affirmations work. The big question most of us have is: Why isn’t it working for me right now in this situation?

Three Common Mistakes:

In working with clients and myself on this over the years, I have identified some of the common problems with affirmations and positive thinking that make them appear to not work. Here are the top three common mistakes:

Your beliefs won’t let you be wrong.

Your subconscious beliefs, the stories you have developed about who you are, and the unique perspectives that you have held all your life are what REALLY rule your reality. In fact, your subconscious will do just about anything to make sure what you believe is validated to you in the world. It’s a mechanism we have for staying sane, but it can also work against us.

For example, if you believe that life is a struggle, that in your family no one was lucky or that everyone but you seems to be successful, then you can read an affirmation every day about getting rich and your subconscious reacts with “Right! Everyone but you that is!” You will self-sabotage in ways you won’t even notice and the minute anything negative happens your subconscious mind will spring back to you with, “See I’m right.”

You are disconnected from your Authentic Self.

Sometimes you think you want something that is really incongruent with what you truly want. You think you want to be rich or famous, but deep down your Authentic Spirit is much more interested in freedom of time or meaningful relationships or a simple life.  When your personal values conflict with what you are asking for, your actual life choices might be reflecting something different than your affirmation.

Your Positive Affirmations are based outside of yourself.

An affirmation must be about you, not about the world “out there”. You only have control over yourself. You can change your own beliefs, your own behaviors, your own perspective about what happens and then, in turn, this will be reflected by your external reality.

There is hope!

Don’t despair if you have been feeling discouraged about your positive affirmations. Take inventory of your own beliefs and see where you might fit into these categories. In the next blog, we will spend some time on quick remedies to these common mistakes and how the process of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a great process for correcting and locking in more positive and believable statements that can change your frustration into hope and encouragement.