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Using Affirmations To Build Your Self-Esteem

On this page, I want to talk about using affirmations as a tool to heal from depression. Today, I want to focus on one of the most painful symptoms of clinical depression--low self-esteem. The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Health Disorders tell us that people who suffer from depression become consumed with “feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.”strong> As TV journalist Mike Wallace wrote during his depressive episode, "I felt lower than a snake's belly. I thought the world would be better off without me."

This is a serious symptom because when don’t value ourselves, how are we to engage in the self-nurturing strategies that will help us to get well and to stay well? A person with healthy self-esteem says, "Because I am of value, I deserve to feel better and am committed to doing whatever it takes to bring about my healing."

Because they say YES! to a person's basic worth, affirmations are ideally suited for building self-esteem. Here is a process that I have used with great success in my groups.

Close your eyes. Go back in time and picture a moment in your life where you felt proud or good about yourself. Perhaps you were engaging in a positive action, or someone gave you a compliment, or you reflected on one of your strengths. In this instance, think of an adjective that you could use to describe yourself in that moment.

Next, take the adjective and complete these sentences:

a)  I am _______ . 
b) (State your name), you are _______. 

For example, if I saw myself as creative, my affirmations would be:

I am creative; and
Douglas, you are creative.

Now open your eyes and use the adjective to complete the self-statements below.

I am ___________
(First name), you are ___________

As you read your affirmation aloud, ask yourself, "How does it feel to say something positive about myself and to myself?” You can use this process to create as many affirmations as you need to.

I also recommend that you give your affirmation to a friend and ask him or her to repeat it back to you in the second tense--i.e. a friend would say to me, "Douglas, you are creative." Again, ask yourself, "What feelings come up when I hear this positive self-statement from another person?"

Finally, if you want to further increase the effectiveness of your self-esteem affirmation, repeat it while looking in the mirror. (This will really test you to see how much good you can receive.) If you can bear with the discomfort and embarrassment of hearing something wonderful about yourself, this exercise will boost your self-esteem.

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