Our thoughts can have a powerful impact on our self-esteem and actions. The way we speak to ourselves and the words we use in day-to-day life are intrinsically linked to the way we end up feeling about ourselves. How frequently do you end up criticising yourself or slipping into negative self-talk? Often, we take a harsher tone with ourselves than we ever would with a friend or even a stranger.
Positive affirmations – statements spoken out loud to yourself, focused on positive wording and challenging critical thoughts – are believed by some to have the ability to make a noticeable change to our sense of presence and self-belief. We’re used to bigging ourselves up when it comes to a critical moment like an interview, but how about taking that positive, can-do attitude forward into daily working life?
First things first, it’s crucial to outline your specific goal, says clinical psychologist Linda Blair. "You can’t have an affirmation unless you know what it is you’re aiming for. That’s why I start with that important question." If your aim is to feel more confident in your role, try phrases such as 'I am a competent person' or 'They hired me because they trust me and I trust myself', suggests Blair.
It’s no good, she says, to tackle Imposter Syndrome or self-doubt with statements such as 'I’m not an imposter', as a hugely important part of positive affirmations is eliminating negative words from them. When you slip into saying things such as 'Don’t be so stupid' or 'I’m so tired today', the focal word – in this instance 'stupid' or 'tired' – is what will end up registering most deeply, explains Blair.
Once you’ve nailed what your goal is and worded your positive and empowering affirmation, the next step is to practise saying it daily. According to Blair, the most effective way to do this is to try mirror talk: looking at your reflection – making eye contact – and saying the affirmation out loud. "It’s incredibly powerful... You say it to yourself as if you’re another person and it goes in both vocally and visually."
While not all experts are convinced by the effectiveness of positive affirmations, others who practise the technique are firm advocates. As with so many self-care methods and confidence boosters, what works for one person may not work for another. The best thing is to give it a go and see how you get on.
Read on to find out how positive affirmations impacted the working week of three R29 staffers and an attendee of The Presence MasterClass™.
Samm, R29 Senior Director, Strategy & Client Services
"I came back from annual leave to a packed few days of back-to-back meetings. As I was looking at my emails and calendar I felt overwhelmed. I'm good at managing my time and energy to ensure I'm being as efficient and productive as possible, but after sorting through everything and prioritising, I found myself stressing about all the things I wasn't going to be able to do. Luckily, my first day back was when I was set to start my affirmations. I'm a positive person but had never tried affirmations so intentionally.
On my first day back I went to the gym in the morning and throughout my session repeated my affirmations in my head. When I got to my desk I wrote them on bright orange Post-it notes and stuck them to my monitor as a constant reminder. 'I'm the queen of efficiency and will do all I can :)' read one. 'I'm excited for all I get to do today' read the other. Having these notes pop up so visibly also inspired me to talk about the exercise with my colleagues — from the stresses I had been feeling to the positive outlook I was trying to take. I think this sparked little nuggets of positivity in the people around me. Good vibes are contagious.
Throughout the week, I felt lighter and extra motivated to get through everything with energy. I believe there was power in the simplicity and specificity of the affirmations. At R29 we're guided by our commitments to practise empathy, respect and gratitude for others and in rooting for everyone to feel, see and claim their power. I love the idea that affirmations make it possible to give ourselves a little boost when we need it, too."
Alrionne, R29 Executive Assistant
"I love positive affirmations, I always use them and find it super effective in my personal life. They’re like the little angel on your right shoulder for whenever you’re not feeling 100%! But work affirmations? A concept.
I tried starting my day with 'I love what I do and I’m ready to slay the day' as my shot of verbal confidence, usually in the mirror before leaving for work. Most mornings on the Tube I had the occasional 'You’re doing amazing sweetie' – morning breath and one too many barges can be the recipe for a disastrous start to the day, so I have to find a way to protect my energy...and it worked!
My favourite and probably most used affirmation this week had to be 'I am open to learn new things and gain constructive criticism' – I swear this opened up a new wave of everyday work. My time was spent more productively, I was learning so many new things and found myself being way more involved in meetings, and it showed. I had compliments from my team and to-do lists took half the time they originally would. Adopting positive affirmations for my work life is my new thing."
Natasha, R29 Associate Creative
"The Sunday Scaries were setting in when I decided on my positive affirmations for the week. After a weekend of relaxation and offline time, putting myself in the mindset for work had me feeling overwhelmed at the to-do list waiting for me in the office. I wanted my affirmations to stop these feelings in their tracks: I have the coolest job, and I'm fortunate to work with super talented and creative women every day. I wanted to focus on that privilege, not the stack of tasks.
After a quick google for inspiration, I settled on the affirmation: 'I am excited about today.' I added 'I will be present in my work and meetings', to help me focus on the moment rather than letting my thoughts get carried away with what needed to be done next.
On the first day I repeated the affirmations into a mirror, but squirmed trying to maintain eye contact with myself. It did raise a smile though, and I felt a little better about heading to work that day.
The next day I repeated the affirmations over and over in the shower. Without the distraction of my reflection, the words seemed to have more power and I found myself saying them with more emphasis on every repetition.
When I felt those overwhelming feelings rising through the day, I found myself repeating 'I am excited about today' in my head, and it definitely helped me focus on the positive. I'll be using this method in other challenging weeks, but the mirror method definitely isn't for me!"
Adeola, Makeup Artist / National Artistry Manager
Adeola attended the live, three-day Presence MasterClass™ in May. She first heard about the positive affirmations technique as part of the MasterClass™ curriculum.
"I have just started a new job, which has brought on some negative thoughts around whether I'm good enough, or if I will live up to expectations. So this was the perfect time to give positive affirmations a try.
I tried a mixture of both verbal and written affirmations for a week and the results were incredible. Every morning I would start the day and journal with written positive affirmations such as 'I will be the best I can be' and 'I am grateful for this new adventure and opportunity'. I found the written affirmations to be a great way to set my intentions for the day ahead. I felt really excited and eager to go.
The verbal affirmations worked well for me throughout the day as a nudge when I needed them. For example, I would repeat them to myself while I brushed my teeth in the mirror, or when I felt overwhelmed at work. Repeating phrases such as 'I am the master of my destiny' and 'I have endless talents which I can use and share' helped calm negative thoughts that creep in and kept me positive. I noticed such a difference in how powerful this technique was in altering my mood.
Mind you, it wasn’t always easy. Some days I would find it challenging to stay positive. I reminded myself that it was okay to let my negative thoughts through sometimes, but not to let them overpower me. I now include positive affirmations as part of my daily routine, as a form of self-care."
The Presence MasterClass™ is a free online resource for women everywhere, packed with tips and exercises for boosting confidence and presenting your most authentic self at work. Sign up here.