Though affirmations have been touted as the secret to success for generations, generally they aren’t very effective. But did you know they could even be dangerous? Dr. Joanne Wood, professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo, has run several experiments that showed that repeating positive self- affirmations can actually make people feel worse!

“We asked participants to either repeat to themselves the statement, ‘I’m a lovable person,’ (positive self- statement condition) for four minutes, or to write down their thoughts and feelings (control condition) for four minutes. Our results indicated that people who were low in self-esteem felt worse about themselves after repeating the positive self-statement. Their moods and their ‘state self-esteem’ – their feelings about themselves at that moment – were more negative than those of lows in the control condition.”

Once you have done the work to release the negative, you have a definite leg up. But to install new beliefs, you need to understand just a little about how the old ones were installed in the first place.

First, most of those beliefs were absorbed rather than consciously accepted. Your unconscious mind, which is determined to help you survive, looked around your environment and made some decisions based on what it saw. If your father belittled your mother for stating opinions, your unconscious probably decided that stating opinions is not safe, but it wasn’t a conscious decision. If you got punished for coloring outside the lines, you may have absorbed the opinion that you aren’t a good artist. But that isn’t a decision you ever made consciously.

Many of the limiting beliefs you absorbed happened fairly early in your life and these beliefs had a clear path in. You didn’t have a ton of existing beliefs back then for a new belief to navigate its way through. It didn’t have to negotiate with, challenge, or mold itself around other existing beliefs. But as an adult, you have layers upon layers of beliefs! Unless you do a lot of work to clear your beliefs and attitudes, any new belief is sure to run head-on into an old one. It won’t be immediately and easily absorbed in you as an adult as it was when you were a child.

So can you see why simply repeating the words of an affirmation won’t get you to a powerful, new mindset? Fortunately, like the numerous processes for releasing negative emotions and limiting beliefs, there has been a lot of research about how to effectively install an operating system that will help you flourish.