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The Instagram Affirmation Myth: Why Your Core Beliefs Are Key to Effective Affirmations

I love affirmations. As a Christian, speaking positive affirmations on our lives aligns with the guidance that the Bible provides in calling for us to adopt a positive mindset. Therefore, I stan that #speakinglife and #positiveaffirmations are principles of our generation that we share regardless of our faith or spirituality.

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these thing - Philippians 4:8

The challenge I have however, is that social media bombards us with all sorts of affirmations on a daily basis, and that we as a generation (or maybe it's just me?) just mindlessly scroll down, taking in these affirmations, screenshooting them and adopting them without critiquing their source and without reviewing whether what we are proclaiming into our lives aligns with the core beliefs that we live by and with our personal values. This is an important factor to consider as it is the difference between whether these affirmations work for us or not. Even if two people chant the same affirmations on a daily basis, these affirmations will not yield the same results if one of these people have core beliefs that are contradictory to the affirmations that they are chanting out.

Our core beliefs are the ideas we have internalised - both consciously and subconsciously - that may have been instilled in us from a very young age; may be informed by our external environment, the people around us; the cultures we grew up in; the spirituality we practise and the knowledge we have about a specific subject or about the world as a whole.

In simple terms, if we are a tree, our behaviours, how we show up in the world and how we relate to other people are the fruit on the tree, and our core beliefs are the roots of the tree and the source of our lives' outward manifestations . These core belief affect us whether we realise it or not. This means that if we are not happy with the "fruit" of our lives, we need to dig deeper into our core beliefs and replace misaligned core beliefs with empowering beliefs and ensure that what we are affirming is indeed supported by what we believe our lives can yield.

A mobile app for affirmations

Let's take money for example. If you have an unchecked belief that money is evil and that wealth is reserved only for certain people - which is what most of us are raised believing - then the fruit of your life will be a very difficult relationship with money, where you will sabotage opportunities to build wealth and just subconsciously settle for what is within your comfort levels. And therefore, no matter how many superficial affirmations on achieving financial freedom and living a soft life you declare every morning, you will not reach this goal if your core beliefs about money are unhealthy. In her book, "You're Not Broke, You're Pre-Rich", my fave 'Mapalo Makhu addresses the idea of first healing our core beliefs about money by forgiving ourselves for our financial mistakes. She provides a case study of a client who wanted to achieve financial freedom but turned out to be a people-pleaser whose personality and self-beliefs made her susceptible to financial abuse. "(through her actions/behaviours I could tell that) she clearly believed that she did not deserve financial freedom", 'Mapalo writes. Following this case study, 'Mapalo provides affirmations that are targeted at getting the reader to forgive themselves for their money mistakes, in order to manifest a healthy relationship with money. This then creates a positive foundation to make affirmations aimed at behaviours and external experiences. Other ways in which we can transform our core beliefs about money is by actually learning the "science of money" - how it grows, how to calculate positive returns, and how wealth is sustained etc, through the financial education that someone like 'Mapalo provides through the Woman and Finance platform in order to replace old limiting beliefs about money that we may have internalised with empowering beliefs about money.

This thinking can be applied to any other area of our lives - whether it be in our careers, in our relationships (with family, co-workers and friends), and in our fitness journeys. We know, for example, that we cannot transform our bodies on affirmations alone - but that positive affirmations about our bodies need to be supported by the right beliefs on the importance of good health and the right understanding of nutrition and eating healthy. If at our core we don't believe that good nutrition is important, then body-positive affirmations will not have the desired impact on our lives - or will not benefit us.

Additionally, we need to be more mindful of whether the affirmations that we are proclaiming are actually aligned with the values that we uphold as individuals because if we don't then we will experience cognitive dissonance - which is "the mental discomfort of holding two conflicting beliefs, values or attitudes" which can result in feelings of shame, embarrassment, discomfort in decision-making or guilt or regret (Kendra Cherry, 2022). Let's take the simple affirmation of "I am in control of my life. Everything I want comes to me. And Everything that I don't want, will not come to my life". This is such a simple affirmation, and it seems quite powerful but it may contradict the core beliefs of someone who is subscribed to a faith that upholds the principle that God is the one that has ultimate control of our lives and that God decides or chooses to allow specific experiences (whether good or bad) into our lives according to His will and for His glory. Another example is someone who believes that their success is tied to the success of other people (the concept of Ubuntu) vs someone who believes that their success and the success of the next person are independent of each other. Each person will need to either adopt only the affirmations that align with the core beliefs about success or have to transform their core beliefs (the roots) in order to manifest different behaviours and external experiences (the fruit).

In conclusion, affirmations are a great idea and a positive principle to adopt. However, affirmations that are not aligned with our core beliefs and that do not support the values we have made a choice to live by can have a negative impact on us and our psyche - especially if we don't see the fruition of what we are proclaiming over our lives. Therefore, as we begin the new year, let's take time to interrogate our core beliefs and ensure that what we believe is empowering for us and positively supports where we want to see ourselves and let's examine the affirmations we have chosen to adopt for consistence with our values and belief system and scroll past affirmations that do not support what we truly believe and want to live by.

I recommend this blog post I previously wrote if you want to know how to go about examining your core beliefs.



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a passionate leader, accomplished professional and a mentor. I believe that nation-building depends on how well we build people. Therefore, my mission is to contribute to the personal, professional and leadership development of people to empower them to reach their highest potential.

I do this through a mentorship program that I founded and through this blog where I share principles I've applied and insights I've gained in the past twelve years of my career and leadership journey.

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