Creating Affirmations that Work

by Yvonne Ellis

If you have read any personal development material, you will have come across the term "affirmation". Often prescribed as a means to change subconscious programming or mindset, an affirmation is simply a declaration – a statement affirming what is, or what you would like to be, the truth about yourself or a condition in your life.

You may even have tried them, and noticed, as I did, that the results are inconsistent. Sometimes they work – sometimes they don’t. Here’s why.

What you’ve probably been taught:

  1. Affirmations must be present tense. Using future tense such as "I will" or "I want" will keep what you want just out of reach, always in the future.

  2. Affirmations must be in the first person "I am" or "I have". Affirmations are a declaration for self. You can also use "I am" followed by "your name" which can also be powerful eg "I am worthy" followed by "your name, you are worthy".

  3. Affirmations must be positively phrased. "I am (what I do want)" not "I am not (what I don’t want). This is because the subconscious mind cannot process a negative, so when it hears a negative affirmation such as "I am not fat", it deletes the "not" and translates it as "I am fat" – exactly what you don’t want.

  4. Affirmations need to be used for 21 to 30 days to be effective.

All of these guidelines are valid in crafting and using affirmations, but they don’t go far enough.

Why affirmations sometimes don’t work

Scientists now know that everything in our world, even what we perceive as being solid, is, at its very essence, energy. That means that every thought that you think creates a vibration. Likewise, every affirmation that you say creates a vibration. When your affirmation becomes part of your dominant vibration, you then attract to you circumstances and experiences that match that. This is how affirmations work at the quantum level.

To become part of your dominant vibration, an affirmation needs to be repeated often and/or felt intensely. Then the resulting vibration will be strong enough and dominant enough to affect your circumstances and experiences. However, if a thought or affirmation is repeated infrequently or without much feeling, the resulting vibration is too weak and sporadic to really affect what you attract. This is one of the things that could be happening when you feel like your affirmations are just not working.

What complicates this process is that most of your thoughts are really affirmations – those you intend to affirm as well as those you don’t. Every time you think a negative thought about yourself, such as "I am such a klutz", "I‘m stupid’, "I’m so fat" and so on, you are affirming your personal "truth" and activating that in your vibration, which begins to attract more of the same.

So, if you spend 5 minutes a day affirming what you desire and the other 15 hours and 55 minutes affirming what you don’t want, nothing is going to change. You need to become aware of your inner dialogue and focus on your positive affirmations whenever you become aware of a thought that contradicts your affirmation. Don’t aim to become aware of all your thoughts – that just isn’t possible. But do start to become aware of those thoughts that are opposing your affirmations – these are the ones that are cancelling out your good work!

Also, although words themselves have a weak vibration, how you feel emotionally when you say your affirmation is far stronger, and is what actually creates your vibration. For example, if you are affirming "I am slim", but you feel doubtful because of the body fat you see when you look in the mirror, your vibration will be negative and will be reinforcing your existing body fat, even though that’s not what you want.

So, although your affirmation is positive, your vibration can be negative, which effectively keeps you stuck. This is the other reason why you might feel like your affirmations are not working. You feel negative, even though your affirmation is positive, because that affirmation contradicts what your subconscious mind believes – it’s not "true" for you. As you think of your affirmation you may even have thoughts like, "yeah, right" or "that’s not true, I’m not slim".

So for an affirmation to work, it needs to be something that your subconscious mind can accept as true. At first, this might seem like a paradox. After all, the reason we use affirmations is to create new circumstances and experiences that aren’t yet "true" for us. However, it’s all a matter of perspective.

If your affirmation is for a new experience, one that you have no contradicting beliefs about, your subconscious will accept it. However, if it’s something that contradicts your existing beliefs, then your subconscious will reject it. You are asking it to accept a change that you want, when that change has not yet happened. As a result the subconscious resists.

However, when we rephrase the affirmation to acknowledge that we are in the process of change, all resistance drops away. For example, although "I am slim" may provoke a negative feeling and therefore a negative vibration, "I am in the process of having a slim, healthy body" will most likely feel positive because from the perspective of your subconscious, you are always in the process of creating your reality.

So, to really make your affirmations work for you, here are some additional guidelines:

  1. Repeat your affirmations to yourself often. Write them down and look at them often. This keeps them active in your vibration. You are aiming to have your affirmations become your habitual thoughts. This might take 21 days or it might take 100. Don’t give up too soon.

  2. Become aware of the feelings you have when you say your affirmations. If they are positive, great, you are activating the vibration of what you want. If they are negative, stop and find a better wording that your subconscious mind can agree with such as "I am in the process of (your affirmation)". For example, "I am in the process of having a slim, healthy body".

  3. Throughout the day, become aware of any inner dialogue that contradicts your affirmation and reframe it by saying something like "that was in the past. I now choose to be or have (your affirmation)". For example "I was stupid in the past at times, but now I choose to be smart and open to all the wonderful opportunities around me".


Yvonne Ellis is one of the authors of

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