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How to use Self-Affirmation to Overcome a Self-Defeating Image


Self-Affirmation and Wellbeing
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Mike Tyson. After him, I lost interest in boxing. A pugilist who was as infamous for his bite as he was famous for his fight, Mike Tyson was the meanest dude. The baddest man on the planet.

The other infamous dental mental was Luis Suarez, who was a phenomenal knock out specialist with the Liverpool Football Club. Since moving to Spain, perhaps there are better meal deals there, he has stopped sinking his teeth into raw human flesh. His right foot is causing most of the pain. To opposing teams.

Mike Tyson. When he was too good to ignore, they say the power of his punch was equivalent to half a metric ton. Taking a punch from Tyson was like having a Grand Piano land on your face. More than the power, he was feared for his speed and positioning.

But, if the continuum from research to successful application is a clean straight line, you, even if you are Average Joe, can whup Tyson. If you did your job well, you don’t have to face the music. If you were sloppy, the Grand Piano.

Self Affirmation and Well-Being
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This is the little Science backed trick; all you have to do is break his will to win before the match. Teach him helplessness.

If you think that is impossible, they have done that to cockroaches, mice and dogs. At least in the labs. They subject these subjects to electric shocks, close down all their paths to escape and then watch them surrender. Taking it lying down. Helplessness. Learned.

If you think cockroaches, mice and dogs are not in the league with Mike Tyson, what about elephants? How do you tame the elephant if not by dissolving the wild spirit in it? Again, how do you tame the Grand Piano thrower?

Make the titan feel tiny.

In his best selling book, "How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, " Jack Canfield uses this mental manipulation of the elephant to illustrate a point about comfort zone. He writes, “A baby elephant is trained at birth to be confined to a very small space. Its trainer will tie its leg with a rope to a wooden post planted deep in the ground. This confines the baby elephant to an area determined by the length of the rope-the elephant’s comfort zone. Though the baby elephant will initially try to break the rope, the rope is too strong, and so the baby elephant learns that it can’t break the rope. It learns that it has to stay in the area defined by the length of the rope.

When the elephant grows up into a 5-ton colossus that could easily break the rope, it doesn’t even try because it learned as a baby that it couldn’t break the rope. In this way, the largest elephant can be confined by the puniest little rope.”

The writers at Reuters published a graphic description of this conditioning process in the segment, “Trapped and Tamed” of their 2007 article, “FACTBOX: How do you domesticate an elephant?”

“--Once trapped, the youngest, easiest to train, elephants, were lassoed and tied to stakes, and unsuitable animals freed.

-- Pulled into tight, wooden “crush” enclosures, the elephants were tamed into obedience by a method called the “phaajaan”, or breaking of the spirit, which is still used today.

-- Trapped barely able to move for days or even weeks in the crush cage and deprived of sleep, they are alternately starved or fed, until they accept chains or harnesses without a struggle and respond to rewards.”

Self-Affirmation and Well-Being
                                                James Hammond on Unsplash

This type of influence is referred to as “The Baby Elephant Syndrome.” This method uses external constraints to program the animal into giving in to learned helplessness, minimizing its natural potential and creating a new limiting zone of comfort.

Jack Canfield’s lesson in this chapter is about limiting beliefs and how to release them. As a human we share components that describe our self-integrity. We hold that we are competent, good, coherent, wholesome, stable, capable of free choice, adaptable and self-determining.

We hold dearly to our roles in life, our social identity, our belief system, our relationship, goals, purpose and meaning. Central to our psychological well-being are the feeling of being in control of one’s choices (autonomy), the feeling of connectedness to others (relationship) and the feeling of being effective and skilled (competency).

World peace! If we all think alike and feel the same, our world view should align. Hold your elephants. Because of environmental factors and our internal build up, we translate the attributes a bit differently and embrace each at different level of gravity. We most likely interpret information and meaning that reinforces what we already believe and value.

Canfield’s novel approach of likening limiting beliefs as the car’s emergency brake should hit a nerve. The analogy has the power of coherence and clarity. Most of us drive a car. And we know how we are slowed with the emergency brake on.

The author suggests three ways we can release the mental emergency brake.

1.  You can use affirmations and positive self-talk to affirm already having what you want, doing what you want, and being the way you want.

2.  You can create powerful and compelling new internal images of having, doing and being what you want.

3.  You can simply change your behavior.

Let’s start in the reverse order. What Canfield proposes in “you can simply change your behavior” is to embrace new norms. He writes about getting used to expensive designer shirts and high-class resorts.

I read it as urging us to get out of a stereotype cast and to embracing new standards. Be open to possibilities so that our mind does not shut us off when we step on the threshold of something much better.

My American idol, Steven Pressfield will have nothing to do with these step improvements. He believes that all the uncertainties and excuses are vile venom spewed by something evil he calls resistance with a capital R. He believes that Resistance is hell bent to stop you from getting even a level higher.

He calls Resistance diabolical and it has every intent to kill us. His antidote delivers a direct and definitely deadly blow to our conniving enemy. A full speed, full power Mike Tyson punch to the head. The Grand Piano treatment. Dr Pressfield’s prescription? Just do the work. Swoosh.

If you are to write, go to your den, write. If you are to work out, go to the gym and not the sofa. Set yourself a schedule and follow the schedule. He often shares this quote by Somerset Maugham to illustrate his point, “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

Moving up the list, Canfield suggests that we do not get stuck in last season’s persona. Thinking the same thoughts, maintaining the same beliefs, speaking the same words and doing the same things.

This triggered a flash card in my brain. I vividly recall the evening I was lugged into an Amway business opportunity meeting. With Resistance sucking every ounce of focus from me, I was no better than a seated mannequin.

Every word explaining the stack of PowerPoint was forgotten as it left the speaker’s mouth. Except this question, “Do you really have three years of experience or do you have one year of experience repeated three times?”

Getting stuck is about a lot of things we tell ourself about ourself inside our head. We have to be watchful of the language we use, especially when we make a mistake.

Like they say, don’t give your mistake a permanent residency. Don’t say, “I always screw up when it comes to making a presentation,” when you know the real issues. “I was nervous, I spoke too fast. I can overcome this by practising to pace myself.”

The use of self-affirmation and positive talk to save us from sliding into an emotional recession is being carried below our conscious level. Researchers found that this happen when our self-integrity is threatened such as when we are criticized, when we are rejected or when power is taken away from us.

It is one of our inborn coping strategies and part of the 16 components of our psychological immune system. While our physical immune system protects us from most virus and diseases, our psychological immune system attempts to shield us from stress and burnout, and other emotional upheaval.

The system’s potency is fuelled by our feelings of optimism, growth, control, openness to new ideas, coherence and the adaptation to environmental changes. Embedded in the whole scheme of things is our ability to strengthen our belief, achieve our goals and behave appropriately. There is a self-respect component which involves the degree of positive self- estimation, self- esteem, and temperance when it comes to pride. *

Self-Affirmation and Well-Being
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Like self-compassion, self-affirmation’s positive impact is almost immediate and it offers a wide selection of good nutrients for the soul. Researchers found that self-affirmation improves your general well-being, increasing both your short-term satisfaction (hedonic well-being) as well as your long-term satisfaction (eudaimonic well-being) with life. All these exclusive benefits from just two to four weeks of practice.

Through repetition, the neural pathway to the part of our brain that is involved in positive self-evaluation and hopefulness is strengthened. Science has proven that we have to ability to rewire our brain through consistent reinforcement of a thought. This is the power of self-affirmation. Scientists have MRI scans to prove it.

Canfield devotes six pages to creating and practising self-affirmation. He vouches that it works for him even though he focused on numbers and things, like $ 100,000.00 and a red Porsche Carrera. You can’t argue against success. He has the bottom-line to prove it. And I assume the Carrera too.

Researchers found that self-affirmation is most effective when linked to components that make up our sense of personal integrity which include our roles, values, group identities, central beliefs, goals and relationships. A red Carrera is all right if it works for you. What makes you hot?

These questions probably hold the key to effective self-affirmation, “What makes you hot? What sets your hair on fire?” Time and time again, researchers asked their subjects to write an affirmation with their most important value and to explain its significance.

The other part of the equation is the impact of writing versus reading. While most self-help gurus ask you to write your affirmation and read it 3-5 times a day, those who participate in researches were asked to write. Does writing your affirmation three times a day beats reading a written one?

Does hand writing make us feel more intimate to the stuff we are writing and therefore deepening our relationship to what’s being written?

An article at Forbes lists three benefits of writing by hand.

1.Handwriting increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain, similar to meditation. 

2.Handwriting sharpens the brain and helps us learn. 

3. Handwriting forces us to slow down and smell the ink.

Piggybacking the third point, the slowing down allows you to contemplate as you write, and maybe, helps you create a deeper impression of the affirmation on your brain.

And of course, you have to write in the affirmative. After all, you are writing a self-affirmation. You don’t write “I don’t want to be hard and cruel,” but you should pen, “I am a compassionate friend and colleague.”

One important thing about writing self-affirmation that researchers found true. The affirmation you write must be uniquely yours. You can’t get others to write for you. You can’t copy another’s affirmation and adopt it.

There are some questions which we will delve further another day. Can we use the one bath to attract many birds approach in writing affirmation? The keystone idea where we write an affirmation, true to our value and it leads us to the achievement of a few other things important to us? Like getting the Porsche Carrera without making it the main target?

Writing your affirmation is one of the actions in life which makes you a sure winner. The answer to whether you will achieve what you wrote for may take some time. While that task is percolating in your brain, you would have unconsciously adopted a more positive view of life. If you continue writing for two to four weeks, you should be happier.

You take vitamins to boost your physical immune system, how are you boosting your psychological immune system?

Would you like to get to where you want to be? What’s holding you back? Take an inventory. Are you still into last season’s beliefs? What are you talking to yourself about? How are you talking to yourself? Now, take out a pen and a notepad. Start writing your affirmation. When you are taking a break, please send the link of this blog to 10 of your friends. As you get out of learned helplessness, I am hopeful you will pick up the positive habit of learned helpfulness. Thank you.

 *Source: “The Predictive Role of Resilience in Psychological Immunity: A Theoretical Review by Tanveer Kaur and Rajashree Roy Som. (International Journal of Current Research and Review)

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