If Positive Affirmations Don’t Work For You, Read This

genuine happiness Mar 14, 2021
woman holding an affirmation sign torn in half


On the road of personal, emotional, and spiritual development, positive affirmations are one of many tools that you will come across. The goal of positive affirmations is to help you stop the self-defeating and self-destructive thoughts that you may be having and to put a pause to the words you often use to describe yourself and your life. Instead, positive affirmations help you to pivot and point you to a way to feel good about yourself and to love yourself just a little bit more.


Throughout my own personal development and happiness journey and throughout helping hundreds of people along theirs, I’ve found positive affirmations to be a black and white phenomenon: sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t. And it’s for one and one reason only: if you’re already in a kind of good place, positive affirmations help to validate that for you. If you’re not in a good place or even in an okay place, (most) positive affirmations lead you to feel dissonance: a sense of “shoot! I’m not where that affirmation says I should be!” which leads you to feel unhappier than before you read or rehearsed the affirmation.


Here are some affirmations from my book “The 5-Minute Gratitude Journal: Give Thanks, Practice Positivity, Find Joy”.

  • My life is full of wonderful things and I am loving every minute of it.

  • I am about to be happier than I have ever been.

  • I have everything I need to live a full and satisfying life.

  • I am learning and growing into a positive, fulfilling future.

  • I trust that everything happening now is happening for my benefit.

  • Where I’ve been has been great. Where I’m going will be even better.

  • The next inspiration, solution or insight I need is always right where I am.

  • Doors of opportunity are all around me today, just waiting to be opened.

  • My problems and challenges are nothing but a blessing in disguise.


In designing these affirmations, I kept in mind and heart the importance of these words feeling good to you. I created them specifically to be a bit more “down to earth” and grounded than the typical affirmations you see in books or on the internet, because if the goal of positive affirmations is to make you more happy, then heck, they should definitely not be making you less happy! The worst thing you can do is recite something to yourself again and again that just doesn’t feel right and that no matter how many times you say it, doesn’t leave you feeling better and may even leave you feeling worse.


[Live conversations in what it takes to create a genuinely happy life are happening each and every week in my virtual community, The Happiness Hub. Join me to hear my weekly segment this week and in coming weeks (replays of all weekly segments are up too!)]


In order for things (whether coaching, therapy, or mindset tools like positive affirmations) to “work” in helping us to realign with our essence of joy, I always say that they must meet and love us where we are. So, in my perspective, the goal of affirmations is twofold: 1) to meet you where you are, and 2) to highlight what’s good about being there. Without #1, #2 is not possible.

And that’s where a lot of positive affirmations miss the mark. They try to present positive hopes and perspectives without meeting you where you are. The result? They leave you feeling worse than when you started.

If on any given day or any given moment while reciting an affirmation, you catch yourself saying “this feels too unrealistic” or “I just can’t believe that right now”, then you know you are not in a state to have access to the benefits of positive affirmations. And that’s perfectly fine. Instead, start exactly where you are. Use the sense of “ugh, these affirmations aren’t doing anything and I wish there was something else I could do” as feedback for you… as information that at this point in time and where you are right now, something else might be more suitable for you. Lucky for you, there is.


If the above affirmations from my book make you feel all optimistic, joyful, and hopeful inside, then these were made for you on this given day. If these affirmations, however, don’t lead you to feel more joyful today, then I’ve got another option for you that I developed to meet the two criteria of affirmations that are effectively joy-inducing and that I presented up above.


Here are some quick and easy alternatives to positive affirmations that you can embrace today.


Rather than helping to catapult you up into the “positivity ethos” where you are unlikely to remain for long without imminent transformation and support, the goal of these alternatives is to serve as believable truths and create an opportunity for appreciative joy based in reality. In lieu of “positive affirmations”, I call these “realffirmations”, and they are affirmations that consider and make the most of how you are feeling right now.

“Realffirmations” are affirmations that consider and make the most of how you are feeling right now. Try them!

See how you feel as you recite these realffirmations. As you do, know that the true goal of affirmations is not to take you up to the stratosphere where you can float on the clouds in a beyond blissful state. It’s to remind you of the beauty and possibility that already live within you. And so, an affirmation that suits you at this moment in time will likely leave you feeling content and full of peace, rather than leaving you reveling in an exorbitant amount of high-energy ecstasy and enthusiasm.


So if positive affirmations don’t work for you, try realffirmations. We are all different and when we take into account where and who we are on any given day, our happiness-boosting and self-development tools can be tailored to meet and support us exactly where we are. I hope that this met you where you are and helped to bring you to where you need to be today.


Let me know how it went in the comments below, and as always, if you need further support through one-on-one coaching and ongoing support, don’t hesitate to reach out! This is where the magic of our lives happens.


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