The Science of Affirmations – How they Work and What You Are Doing Wrong

Let’s start off with the basics – what are affirmations? Affirmations can really be one of two things – acknowledging the truth of something (“I can affirm these accounts are true”) or emotional support and encouragement. Now, the way this community uses affirmations is different, because what we are doing is combining the two, which is called “Self-Affirmation” which was popularized by Dr. Claude Steele in 1988. Now, what is Self-Affirmation?

Self-Affirmation is, mainly, a coping mechanism. You may be thinking “Crescent, what does this have to do with anything? I’m not coping!” Listen, and find out. Steele theorized that when we process information or experience anything that threatens our sense of self, we will experience some sort of distress, which we then cope with using denial (it wasn’t my fault I failed the test, the teacher didn’t teach me properly!) or simply avoiding the issue (I am not succeeding the way I would like to in this class, so I am just not going to show up). The reason we do this is because we have something called self-integrity, which are ideals we hold ourselves accountable for. By using self-affirmation, we reduce the threat of which we are experiencing, also known as “coping”. By saying to yourself “this test does not define me” before taking a stress-inducing test, you will realize that not only will your stress response lessen, but you may experience better results due to not being overtly stressed during the test.

However, this does not work so easily- and this can be where people get frustrated. The key for this to work is we cannot be aware we are doing it. The reason for this is that if we are aware, we become so focused on it that we don’t receive any of the benefits. Three different studies were performed, and found that there are three levels of awareness (Sherman et al. 2009) we must get around and why.
The first level of awareness is to know we are actively doing it. This does not mean it is bogus when people suggest using affirmations by saying them out loud or to yourself. The reason it is important to start doing so actively is that eventually, you will begin to do it subconsciously. Once you begin to do so automatically without actively trying to get the results, you will begin to see results because it becomes more genuine.
The next level is being aware of possible outcomes of the affirmation. By being aware, you are actually raising your expectations of what to expect, and when you do not see the results you want to see, it can discourage you from continuing the use of affirmations. Like I said, affirmations are meant to reduce the threat-level of stressful situations. By using an affirmation of “I am good with my money” you may expect to see your savings go up exceptionally, and will be disappointed when you do not, even though the purpose of the affirmation is not to save or manifest money- but to feel more comfortable when bills come around. So, even when you find bills to be less stressful, you will not be happy with it because it is not what you expect, so you stop (even subconsciously) and then find the bills to be stressful again.
Finally, the final stage is for it to affect how you perform. Back to the money example, if you have the affirmation of “I am good with my money” and you have been using it, but decide to “treat yourself” a little too much but tell yourself it is well deserved, you can find yourself still stressed. Or, you now have high expectations of what you consider “good with money” so anytime you have to buy something or pay a bill, you stress because you are holding yourself to a higher standard.

So, you may be asking, how do we use affirmations properly? Before even trying to get rid of the levels of awareness, we first need to know what makes a good affirmation. First and foremost, it needs to be in present tense. Instead of “I will be successful” try “I am successful.” Now, we need to detach ourselves from what we consider “successful” and now use this affirmation to give us courage to get there, not success itself. When we are afraid to move forward, we will tell ourselves “I am successful.” to give us a boost in confidence. We may find the situations scary at first, but eventually it will become second nature to go in and feel we have succeeded. Another important thing to note is that we cannot shoot too high or unrealistically. Affirmations cannot make illnesses go away, but it can help relieve the stress said illness causes. Finally, the affirmation needs to already hold true in some way, shape, or form. The point of the affirmation is to focus on values that are relevant to you, so that it reduces the threat level when something threatens your self-integrity.

So, if affirmations are not working for you, chances are you have not given it enough time, and/or are too focused on the affirmation itself. Remember, affirmations work best when done subconsciously, and when performance is not altered base on assumptions. Look above and think if you are falling victim to any of these three levels of awareness. By continuing to practice affirmations in your day to day life, you train yourself to do so subconsciously. It can take a lot of time, but the benefits of affirmations are so worth it.


Now the ‘boring science part’ is out of the way, let’s talk magic. How can we use this information in our craft? Is it even relevant? Of course it is! More importantly, it is relevant to Sigil crafting and Manifesting.

For sigil crafting, it ties itself very closely to the self-affirmation theory. When creating a sigil, it is important to use a phrase in the present tense, and for it to be possible to achieve (ie. you can’t grow wings at all, or a foot of hair in one day, sorry). Another thing that is very important about sigils is we are suppose to forget what they mean. When we look at a sigil we should not automatically think of the phrase or purpose attached to it, what is suppose to happen is when we see that symbol, our subconscious kicks in, tells itself the affirmation, and continues on in less than a second. Just like how when we see a word we are very familiar with, we do not have to consciously analyze every letter, because we do so automatically. This is why it is beneficial to put the sigil in a place you may see constantly, without being too distracted by it (Corner of your mirror instead of the middle of it) and for it to be where it is likely to be needed (by the mirror for self-confidence, in your shoe tongue for safe travels, by your work area for productivity, and so on.)

Manifesting also benefits from this knowledge, because Manifestation combines this with the Law of Attraction. Think of Manifestation as an Advanced Affirmation. Manifesting lowers stress in stressful situations (“this situation serves me and my goal, and while I may not like it now, I know that it is important for my growth”) but focuses on a goal, not a value. “I am optimistic, as this does not define me” is about value, you value yourself and your ability to be optimistic. Now, if your goal is to be optimistic, that is not manifesting, but growth. Manifesting are for more bigger goals such as success, stability, healthy relationships, and so on. By focusing on a goal (buying a house, having a healthy family, being stable mentally or financially), and working towards it with affirmations, you begin the process of manifesting.


I hope this helped, let me know your thoughts!

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Credit to:
Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. Advances in experimental social psychology, 21, 261-302
Sherman et Al. (2009) Affirmed Yet Unaware: Exploring the Role of Awareness in the Process of Self-Affirmation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2009, Vol. 97, No. 5, 745–764

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