There are probably a thousand books available on the benefits of positive thinking and the use of affirmations. Affirmations are “affirmative” statements about yourself, such as “The interview will go fine. I will get this job!” Or “I am happy and calm. I am in control of my life”.
What’s wrong with Positive Thinking?
The problem with positive thinking is that, as most of us would know, it doesn’t always work! How many times have we gone to a social event and tried to convince ourselves that we are relaxed, that we are the life and soul of the party, and that everyone wants to talk to us because we are so lovable. Then we come home dejected from having spent most of the evening scoffing dip and crackers in the corner, having listened to the endless droning of the expert on sewerage treatment methods who monopolized you for the entire evening.
Positive thinking can be a great way to change your life, but the idea is to choose the right positive statement to meditate upon. If, for example, you are a very shy person, it is quite unrealistic to tell yourself that you are extraverted and adore being the center of attention. Because the truth is you aren’t and you don’t. So, it doesn’t matter how dedicated you are at repeating your mantra or how many signs you have plastered around the house reminding yourself just how much like Steve Martin you are, when crunch time comes, you’ll find out very quickly that you are not Steve Martin after all. You are you.
Choosing the right thought
The key to using positive thinking effectively is to choose an affirmation that you actually believe. Getting back to the previous example, the shy person knows all too well that they are shy. To tell yourself repeatedly that you are not shy will achieve nothing but frustration. However, the shy person does have other valuable attributes that are of immense importance in a social situation. They may be great listeners. Or, because of their own shyness, they may have the ability to recognize a fellow traveler at a party and make them feel at ease. Imagine how unpleasant a social gathering would be with a room full of loud, back-slapping, egomaniacal extraverts who all just wanted to be the star of the show?
The better affirmation for the shy person in this instance is: “I am a good listener and people value good listeners”. This resonates as true and is more likely to enable the shy person to feel less stressed about upcoming social events. In time, they may even come to see the truth—that the quiet, thoughtful person has just as important a role to play in everyday interactions than the confident extravert.
Positive thinking does work, you just need to exercise care in determining the right phrase for the job.