Self-affirmation is often confusing to students who aren’t quite sure of how it can be done. I think a particularly useful way to look at self-affirmation is in terms of “I am,” “I can,” and “I will” statements, an idea that comes from www.coping.org (and there’s a lot more on this website that I think you’ll find useful):
• I am statements focus on your self-image, on how you see yourself, and might include, for example, “I am a worthy person,” “I am responsible,” “I am capable of loving,” and “I am a good team player.”
• I can statements focus on your abilities and might include, for example, “I can accept my past but also let it go,” “I can learn to be a more responsive partner,” “I can assert myself when appropriate,” and “I can control my anger.”
• I will statements focus on useful and appropriate goals you want to achieve and might include, for example, “I will get over my guilty feelings,” “I will study more effectively,” “I will act more supportively,” and “I will not take on more responsibility than I can handle.”
The idea behind this advice is that the way you talk to yourself will influence what you think of yourself. If you affirm yourself—if you tell yourself that you’re a friendly person, that you can be a leader, that you will succeed on the next test—you will soon come to feel more positively about yourself. Some research, however, argues that such affirmations—although extremely popular in self-help books—may not be very helpful. These critics contend that if you have low self-esteem, you’re not going to believe your self-affirmations, because you don’t have a high opinion of yourself to begin with. They propose that the alternative to self-affirmation is to secure affirmation from others. You’d do this by, for example, becoming more interpersonally competent and interacting with more positive people. In this way, you’d get more positive feedback from others—which, these researchers argue, is more helpful than self-talk in raising self-esteem.