Simply put, they don't work.
Let it be known I'm a fan of anyone who encourages and inspires others. We need more of that, but we also need to get real. I'm not trying to be a hater here. Post all the affirmations you want on Facebook and Twitter but know they're not doing much good. I've even shared a few myself before coming to this conclusion.
What people really need is a proven philosophy to help them succeed and overcome adversity.
Lets look at some affirmations from psychologist Dr. Carmen Harra:
This is positive and will likely make the reader feel good for about five minutes before they leave the house. But as soon as they encounter a problem they revert back to their old thinking. The affirmation is short-lived. It's like eating sweets. They taste good and give you an energy boost but then you come down from the sugar high and feel sluggish.
Doesn't that just sound wonderful? But here's the rub. The person who truly believes this doesn't need the affirmation. And the person who doesn't believe it won't be helped by the simple affirmation because deep in their gut they don't believe it to be true.
A Facebook friend posted this the other day:
I love the sentiment, but this person had just ridiculed Rosie O'Donnell for chewing gum as she arrived at the Joan Rivers' funeral. The comment about Rosie not being classy was neither kind nor gentle. Sometimes we post these things to make us feel better and impress our online friends, but we don't always practice what we preach.
A friend used to post affirmations just about everyday and those around her loved the positive attitude she displayed on social media. But this friend was weathering some tough times and one day just lost it. The Facebook post read something like this: "I post affirmations every day and try to be positive and now this sh*t happens."
What my friend didn't realize is that when you decide to change, the world doesn't decide to take the ride with you.
Sure, if you smile more and are friendly in stores and other places you see people, they are more apt to reciprocate. But just because you decide you're going to be a kinder, gentler human being, doesn't mean everybody else in the world will follow suit. The key is to be your self regardless of how others respond.
And finally, this is a great sentiment:
Forgiveness may be the hardest lesson we humans learn during our lifetimes. It would be nice if once sentence worked for us but it's a more detailed process than that. Forgiveness starts with us dropping our expectation of a certain outcome. We expect someone to act one way and when they fail, we can't forgive. Sometimes we have to forgive ourselves for expecting those around us to be perfect. Forgiveness is a process, not a one-liner.
The word affirmation means to assert that something is true. These phrases only work if we believe them to be true. And if we truly believed them, we wouldn't need them. That's why many successful people don't wake up and recite affirmations. They're temporary when we need more permanent solutions.
Continue to post if you like. You may brighten someone's world for a few minutes and that's worth something. The world needs cheerleaders.
But I believe the best way to encourage our friends and colleagues is to be living, breathing examples of positivity and success.
(slides courtesy Brad Wheelis)