Stop Wasting your Time on Positive Affirmations

Stop Wasting Your Time on Positive Affirmations

Please stop wasting your time standing in front of the mirror reciting positive affirmations. That’s right, affirmations don’t work.

Most of us remember the Stuart Smalley character on Saturday Night Live and his comical affirmations. They seem like such a good idea. If only we could just say nice things to ourselves and they would become reality! Well, that’s a fantasy (and a funny Saturday Night Live skit).

Thinking or saying “I’m a great wife” is not going to make me a great wife. If I have been ruminating about how I forgot my husband’s birthday and yelled at him for not taking out the trash, this affirmation is not going to be believable. Telling myself something that I know isn’t true, will not make me feel better about myself. I either need to have evidence that I am a great wife (including a definition of what a great wife means to me) or I need to tell myself something I believe.

What it may do, is set a positive intention. Then you can take a positive intention and turn it into action. If I want to be a “great wife” I need to take concrete steps toward that goal. I can make my husband dinner and give him a back rub and then I will probably feel better about my role as a wife.

Blindly repeating overly general statements with no basis in reality (such as “My life is getting better every day” or “I am beautiful”) are unlikely to help you. Here are some suggestions that are more likely to work:

  • Change requires action in both thought and behavior. Figure out how you can become the person you want to be.
  • Set goals with clear action items (such as I will become a better wife by listening attentively to my husband and making time to go hiking with him once a week).
  • Acknowledge your progress. (I love the AA slogan: Progress not Perfection.)
  • Find positive things about yourself that you believe and focus on them.


© 2015 Sharon Martin, LCSW
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Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.