I hate affirmations.

Now, “hate” might be a strong word. That’s usually a word I reserve for spiders and water chestnuts. And really neither of those things are all that horrible, I suppose.  I do HATE hearing the sounds of people eating. It’s a thing. You can read all about it here.

Anyway, affirmations aren’t my favorite thing. They are something you learn early on in the personal development world and I just never took to them. There was just something about them that rubbed me the wrong way. They have always felt like a little too much talk and not enough action OR just enough talk to keep you taking action that might be helpful.

You know what affirmations are, right?  They are “statements that we tell ourselves in order to spark self-change. They are designed to alter our beliefs about ourselves such that they are more positive.” People who use affirmations in their lives often use them daily.

Some examples of affirmations:

“My life is fun and rewarding.”

“I am smart and capable of accomplishing anything.”

“I am grateful for everything I have.”

Now it might seem weird to not be a fan of a tool that seems so positive. I mean, what’s the harm of saying those statements above?

If affirmations work for you, then I encourage you to keep using them. Stop reading right now and go back to your affirmations.

However, if affirmations have never been your thing either, keep reading. I have thoughts on a different approach. But first, let me explain why I don’t like affirmations.


1. Affirmations are not enough 

That’s not to say that other tools in the mental health toolbox are enough all by themselves, but affirmations are so “easy” to do that they are often the only thing that people do.

Do you know that saying by Abraham Maslow?:

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

When it comes to the self-help world, affirmations are one of the first things people learn. Everything else after that is much harder so often times people’s mental health toolbox just has the affirmation tool in it.

So when they approach problems, they just see another affirmation they have to say to overcome that problem when perhaps additional tools may be necessary or more useful.

Behind on your mortgage and foreclosure is pending?  Try this one: “Money is coming to me with little or no effort.”

Broke up with your boyfriend?  Try this one: “I know with every fiber of my being that the Universe is bringing me only the most supportive, loving and awesome relationships.

Unexpected and unwanted pregnancy? How about this one: “I welcome the changes in my body.”

While I made up the scenarios above, the affirmations are recommended affirmations for these kinds of topics.  I mean, really? If I’m heading to foreclosure, I’m gonna DO something to make sure the money comes to me and it might take some effort.

Maybe these affirmations could be helpful,  but there are lots of other tools that could be helpful to have in your toolbox to help you with these scenarios much more effectively:

  • Personal reflection
  • Gratitude
  • Asking for feedback
  • Learning
  • Talk therapy
  • Journaling
  • Seeking the help of qualified professionals
  • Networking

Bottom line. Make sure you have more tools in your toolbox in order to make affirmations a more useful tool.


2. Affirmations reinforce the “you just need to change your mindset” myth

Sometimes your mindset is just fine and your circumstances are shitty. It’s ok if you don’t have positive feelings about your circumstances. That doesn’t mean you have a bad mindset.

If you are excessively beating yourself up in your head or excessively blaming everyone else for your problems (where excessive = any amount that is not productive) then mindset adjustments are necessary.

But if genuinely shitty stuff is happening in your life, it’s ok to not feel great about it.

I have a client going through a really hard time. If I listed out everything they were dealing with you’d be like “dang, I don’t think I’d even get out of bed”. And they were worried about their mindset because they weren’t feeling great about all the shitty stuff that they were going through. They were feeling sad, angry, scared and frustrated. And anyone looking in from the outside would say “Yeah, that totally makes sense, I’d feel that way too”.

Of anyone I’ve ever worked with, this client has one of the most positive mindsets I’ve ever encountered.  Not because they are a Pollyanna looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, but because they are willing to try things, to fail and to learn and grow. They don’t judge themselves for their failures and they don’t blame others. They take responsibility for their actions.

In other words, you can have a great mindset AND still feel like shit.

You have to remember what our brains are doing on a regular basis. On the daily your brain is trying to scare the shit out of you. That’s it’s job. It’s supposed to keep you alive and that means that it’s going to blast doom and gloom messages at you all the time.  For early homo sapiens it was screaming “Watch out for that saber tooth tiger” when you heard a noise.  Now it’s screaming “They’re all going to realize that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. You’re a fraud!!!”

And then you bring affirmations into the mix and it’s like blasting a “positive mindset” radio station with “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves on endless loop in response to your brain’s doom and gloom radio.  It just creates a lot of noise.

Lives worth living will have low points that will lead to hard feelings. When those low points hit, do yourself a favor and back off the affirmations. It’s ok to just feel like shit for a minute.

Which takes me to my third reason for hating affirmations…

3.  Affirmations encourage you to keep charging ahead when a pause might be best

So you aren’t getting where you want to go in your job no matter how many times a day you say “I am smart and capable of accomplishing anything”?

You start your day every day with that affirmation and just keep getting after it just like you did the day before.

Maybe when you are trying really hard at something and it’s not working, just saying “I am smart and capable of accomplishing anything” while you keep banging your head against the obstacles doesn’t really make sense.

It might make sense to pause and take stock of things. Ask for help. Consider other solutions. Ask yourself if this is the path you really want to keep going down.

That client I mentioned earlier, they had to pause. They took a beat or two to take stock of their feelings. They let those feelings wash over them. It sucked. It didn’t feel great. It was scary because they didn’t know how long they’d feel that way.

They could have just pushed forward screaming out their affirmations in order to block out the “bad” feelings and “fix” their mindset, but that would have just been denial. Those feelings would surface eventually, so they might as well be intentional about feeling them.

This pause helped them move forward in a much more intentional way than they were when they thought they had to change their mindset and just push forward.

It’s OK to pause. You don’t have to keep pushing. Sometimes rest is best.


When it comes down to it, any tool could be ineffective by itself. Any tool could make you think there’s something wrong with your mindset. Any tool could lead you to think that pushing forward is best when a pause might be better. Affirmations are an easy target because they are often the first and, too often, the only thing people learn in their personal growth journey.

As I said before, if affirmations work for you, keep doing them. In fact, make them the best you can. There are lots of resources out there to help you write effective affirmations.

And if affirmations don’t work for you, it’s ok. They don’t work for people for lots of reasons. If you are one of those people consider another approach:  

  1. Make room for the unpleasant feelings rather than suppressing them
  2. Take a moment to pause and take stock of your current reality…without judging  what you uncover (If your current reality is big ol’ mess, consider joining me on the GYST journey)
  3. Tap into your values…who do YOU want to be regardless of how everyone else is acting?
  4. And then take action in line with those values

It can take time to learn how to pause and sometimes people need help uncovering their values and figuring out what it looks like to take action in line with their values. If you are already on this path of self-discovery and personal growth and need help with some of this, you might be ready for coaching with me. You can go here to learn more about what that might look like.

Do affirmations work for you? Tell me all about it in the comments below.


  1. Joy

    Hello, I came across this on Pinterest and although I do use affirmations in a small way in my life I love where you said “Sometimes your mindset is just fine and your circumstances are shitty.” Often accepting that something shitty has happened is enough enotional support to make changes.

    Keep up the great work. I love it! 🙂


    • Elise Enriquez

      Hi Joy, I’m so glad that affirmations work for you AND That this spoke to you. Definitely can be both/and vs. either/or. 🙂

  2. Melissa

    I am not an affirmation person, though I do see how they are helpful to many. I think my biggest problem with them is the affirmation itself. Let me explain. I feel like the affirmation should be something of more substance. Instead of I am going to have a great day, maybe How can I make this a great day? Then saying I am going to make this a great day by helping others. Know what I mean, instead of expecting things to happen, make the affirmation something you are going to make happen. I also see the benefit of affirmations that create self worth in people. Like a person who has just gone through a break up saying they are of worth or beautiful to themselves. I think in those instances it can be powerful. I do agree with you that it can set people up to fail with false expectations if they do nothing more.

    • Elise Enriquez

      Melissa, I think that’s a great way to put it. I too am all about the action. What action are you going to take to create what you want to create? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Anna

    I have to say this is the weirdest post I have ever read…

    It’s like you ran out of content and decided to make people questions their self-growth techniques.

    Not everyone needs to do affirmations but there is a true science behind affirmations and most people who strongly practice don’t believe that is all you have to do. INSTEAD they find the strength to try new things, set out of their shell, and take a chance they might not have.

    This was a very negative post and I really am still so confused.

    • Elise Enriquez

      Hi Anna, I think people do whatever works best for them. As I said in the post, if affirmations work for people, they should keep doing them. This post was for people for whom affirmations haven’t been helpful. You make a great point, when done well, affirmations can lead people to take action to create the lives they want.Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    • Anna...gtfo wit yo negative ass

      Clearly Anna uses her affirmations for SUUUUUCH positivity. You go Anna! Make it a great day, you starshine sunburst.


      P.S. to Elise:

      Loved this. I’m forced to do affirmations at work, and I just end up despising them. I think of affirmations as a very personal exercise that I do when things get tough, not how to handle every day… I think it’s a bit of a false positive, and I think I’m just too honest with myself to believe them when I try to force it.

      • Elise Enriquez

        Let’s not hate on Anna, mountaingirl. Nothing but love here, please.

        Yeah, the false positive thing is something I can relate to. As others have said in the comments, when you actually believe the affirmation, it can be powerful. Have you heard of Dan Pink? He did a great video on self-talk that I’ve been using during workouts. Very interesting. Check it out: https://www.danpink.com/pinkcast/pinkcast-2-22-this-is-how-to-talk-to-yourself/

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. Love how you are keeping it honest with yourself. 🙂

    • Jacqueline

      I agree with you.Your words control your universe. Positive affirmation does not imply those innuendos will solve all your problem. It’s the concept of speaking positive energy into your life to help reduce stess, anxiety, & depression. Positive affirmation are excellent!

      • Elise Enriquez

        Jacqueline, thanks for your comment. So glad you are finding strength through your positive affirmations. What are some of your favorites?

  4. Janni "Gulde" Iversen

    I don’t find affirmations to be working for me. Except for this one, which is more of a reminder:

    “You do a good job, that the customer couldn’t have done themselves.”

    I have issues with perfectionism/not feeling like I am good enough, as well as a tendency to feel like an imposter. If we compare skill to skill, I can see I can do alot, other people can’t. But as many of my skills are in tech/digital and communication, and those are skills everyone has to some degree, I often forget the level of specialisation I am on, and undervalue myself. I do compaire and compete against real human beings, but perfect clones of myself. So sometimes, reminding myself that what I am doing is indeed something that someone else couldn’t do – like the customer, or surely they wouldn’t “hire” me, does help. That is the only one though.

    Affirmations like “I am happy and have my shit under control” just work anxiety provoking by highlighting how much of a lie it still is ^^”

    • Elise Enriquez

      Hi Janni. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m a big fan of progress, not perfection. When it comes to affirmations, i say, use what works and leave the rest, right? 🙂 And yes, your special mix is needed in the world.

      • Ellen

        Very nice article. I enjoy reading your words. ?

        I think affirmations can have a definite place and time for some people. I believe that we act based upon our beliefs, and many of our beliefs come from the words others have told us in the past and those words we tell ourselves.

        Many of us have beliefs and thoughts that are right on track with our values and we are satisfied with them. But many of us have beliefs that are not really our own or are not intentional. They come from deep within us, often from our childhood. And many of these beliefs do not serve us. It is VERY difficult to change beliefs that are long term. One of my childhood beliefs is, “Finish what you started” (before you start anything new.) This often stops me from letting go of things I am no longer benefiting from.

        For me, affirmations are a way to “reprogram” my subconscious thoughts to something new that my conscious mind has learned. So I might say: “I can let go of projects that are no longer serving me”.

        I have heard that kids need to hear something hundreds of times to believe it. (Not sure if this is correct) but it makes sense that adults are the same way

        Repetition of a different belief that I want to intentionally “program” will lead me to better actions. This is why I use affirmations. Not in place of action, but to inspire more of it!

        Also, I think affirmations only work well if you customize your own. Think about what beliefs you hold that are not really correct. Negative thoughts that pop into your head. The ones that are frequent and hold you back. (“Ugh! I am hopelessly messy!”) Coming from your subconscious. Now think what your conscious mind actually knows and create a saying that counteracts that negative statement. What do you want to change it to?

        Also, the affirmation is probably not going to work if you just say it when you are banging your head against the wall. Just like you “train” for a sporting event, you are “training” your brain and it works best to do it ahead of the stress time. So it really is best for just the ideas that repeatedly cause you trouble.

        Best Wishes!


    Affirmations along with hard work and focus can get you places.

    • Elise Enriquez

      So true. Intentional action makes things happen. 🙂

  6. Heather

    This was an interesting post. Used to feel that affirmations were pointless and sometimes led people to have false expectations and not feel their emotions. I started using affirmations and I learned that they only worked for me if I was saying something that already rang true to me. I like to think of affirmations as “re-affirmations”. Affirmations can he used to reaffirm truths you already know. Thanks for sharing your insights!

    • Elise Enriquez

      Totally, Heather. I hear you on that. I love the idea of “re-affirmations”. That’s a great way to say it. Thanks for sharing *your* insights. 🙂

  7. Kjell

    Affirmations reinforce the “you just need to change your mindset” myth
    Sometimes your mindset is just fine and your circumstances are shitty. It’s ok if you don’t have positive feelings about your circumstances. That doesn’t mean you have a bad mindset.”

    This is extremely contradicting. Thinking your circumstance is shitty is a mindset. Changing perspective and embracing discomfort doesn’t mean denying it all together. It means finding a way to make it work to your advantage rather than your disadvantage. This post seems to reinforce an unaccountable/victim mentality. Your mindset will direct and guide your actions. Fear based thinking leads to our detriment and creates more damaging stress, which leads to a lower quality of life. There a thousands if not millions of examples of how changing your mindset/perspective to a more positive and love based modality will increase well-being overall.

    • Elise Enriquez

      Hi Kjell, you and I are on the same page with regard to love and positivity. Yes! More of those things.

      Tell me more about your thoughts on my post reinforcing an “unaccountable/victim mentality”.

      Please take a moment and read the whole post again (did you see this part?: “If you are excessively beating yourself up in your head or excessively blaming everyone else for your problems (where excessive = any amount that is not productive) then mindset adjustments are necessary.”) and if you still feel that way, share more with me. I want to understand where you are coming from.


  8. Howze Sighs

    Affirmations do nothing for me in words from people who don’t know me well. They feel empty and unusable.

  9. Cynthia Brant

    For 40 years I have struggled with Affirmations and felt somehow flawed, though I never had the words to describe it. This is certainly a more balanced perspective that I am embracing as I age. The black or white dualistic thinking creates great angst. Thank you!


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