“I am a strong, fearless, unstoppable warrior.” That’s the first thing I see every morning on a Post-it next to my bed. I read that phrase to myself, then say it out loud in the mirror. Ten times, every day. That simple practice changed my life.
A year ago, my life felt out of control and I didn’t believe I had the power to change it. Therapy helped, but I needed something that I could do for myself, by myself. One day, I came across an article on how affirmations could boost self-confidence, and while I knew nothing about it, I was willing to try.
I learned that affirmations, or mantras, are simply empowering phrases that assert something good about oneself. I repeated my warrior affirmation to myself every day for weeks, always envisioning myself with a warrior’s strength and capability. To my surprise, my attitude gradually began to improve. In a few weeks I was no longer waking up with butterflies in my stomach, and after a month I was feeling optimistic in the morning. These days? I get out of bed ready to slay the day.
“It’s just like you would take allergy medicine for allergies or a vitamin to feel better. Affirmations are like medicine for the soul.”
I’m not the only Black woman who believes in the power of affirmations. Actress Keke Palmer posts regularly to her InstaGram account with the hashtag #MirrorAffirmations, while every morning singer Lizzo pats her belly and tells it, “I love you.” Even more powerful? Love in the City star and 14-year cancer survivor Bershan Shaw used affirmations to find hope during stage 4 breast cancer treatment.
Ready to show yourself some radical self-love?
Affirmations Retrain Your Brain
Plain and simple, practicing daily affirmations helps train your brain to believe the positive truth it’s given. It sounds like magic, but there’s science behind it. Saying affirmations activates neural pathways associated with positive attitudes about our self-worth, according to the National Institute of Health. But regular repetition is what strengthens those pathways, says Samara Toussaint, a psychologist and the founder of Path2Growth Counseling Services. Repetition is key to rewiring your brain to think more positively and be more resilient to negative thoughts.
The Boost You Didn’t Know You Needed
For sistas, even with the support of friends and family, we might benefit more than others from the extra TLC affirmations provide. Black women shoulder a lot of responsibility in our daily lives, usually at the cost of our own self-care. Toussaint calls it “superhero syndrome.” She says, “Black women always have to show up, always have to be strong, but in reality, we can feel like we’re drowning.” It doesn’t leave a lot of room to take care of ourselves. Whitley Grant, a licensed clinical mental health counselor and the owner of The Melanated Space, adds that there are so many negative stereotypes associated with being a Black woman, that over time that flood of negativity impacts our sense of self-worth.
The positive feelings generated from an affirmation actively combat that constant stress and negativity. Toussaint believes daily affirmation practice has the most impact “because the negativity Black women receive also happens on a daily basis.”
In Good Times, in Bad Times
Affirmations aren’t just for when you’re feeling low. They are infinitely flexible, and you can mold your practice to simply bring joy, positivity or peace to your daily life. Even better? Your spirituality can be strengthened through affirmations. Grant points out that Psalm 23 is almost an affirmation in itself. “‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil,’” she recites. “That tells me that regardless of what comes in my day, I have faith in myself.”
Most important, affirmations provide an opportunity for us to prioritize ourselves. “Taking care of our mental health is so important for us and affirmations are a powerful way to exercise some self-care,” says Toussaint.
Ready, Set, Grow!
Here’s how to start your practice from scratch. Start with one affirmation and write it where you’ll see it every day, like next to your bed. At least once a day, repeat it ten times to yourself and then out loud. But don’t just repeat it, be intentional. “If you’re working on confidence, don’t just say ‘I am confident,’ while slouched in your chair,” advises Toussaint. “Stand up straight, close your eyes and visualize yourself as confident.” And practice, practice, practice! Telling yourself how phenomenal you are might feel odd at first but give yourself time to get used to it. Commitment to the routine is what makes the positive attitude stick.
Looking for inspiration? Here are a few starters.
- For good health: I will take care of this body, the only one I will ever have.
- For confidence: I have all I need inside of me.
- For the philosophers: There are only moments. Live in this one.
- For gratitude: Today is a beautiful day to be alive and healthy.
- To center yourself: This, too, shall pass.
- For more ideas, check out BLK Girl Culture’s list of 25 affirmations for Black women, or the Dear Black Women Project, a website dedicated entirely to affirmations for us.
Now that you’re all set, just remember that everyone’s progress differs. You may feel a boost after just one recitation, or it may take a month to feel a serious shift. The best way to set yourself up for success is to be patient and dedicated. Grant says, “It’s just like you would take allergy medicine for allergies or a vitamin to feel better. Affirmations are like medicine for the soul.”