Why Affirmations Can Be Bad For You (and What To Do Instead)

Affirmations have long been one of the staples of the new age. There has been an assumption that if you want to grow in a particular area, repeating positive affirmations will help you do just that.

At the risk of creating controversy, I want to challenge that assumption. I believe that not only are affirmations often not affective, but they can even make a situation worse.

Now, let me start by putting out this disclaimer: If you do affirmations regularly and you’ve gotten great results, then obviously they work for you. You can basically ignore what I’m about to say. But if you’ve used them and never really seen any results, then read on.


You see, you have two basic parts to your mind, your conscious, and your subconscious. Which mind do you think has more effect over your day-to-day actions?

Related Article: 10 Affirmations to Surrender Your Problems to the Universe

If you answered “subconscious,” you’re correct. It’s pretty much universally agreed that the subconscious mind is the main driver of human behavior. While we may think that we rationalize and make our decisions from our logical, conscious mind, what typically happens is we first make a decision from our subconscious mind, and then find conscious reasons to support it.

In any case, the subconscious is the real driver.

Unfortunately, while affirmations positively engage your conscious mind, they often negatively engage your subconscious mind, the part of your mind that is more in control of your behavior. It works like this.

You have an area of you life you want to improve, like you’re sick and you want to feel healthy.

So you form a positive affirmation about it. “I am healthy.”

Now, if you have a chronic disease or a bad pain problem — the very reasons why you want to be healthier – it may be really hard for you to believe this affirmation. If you listen inwardly, you may discover that your subconscious mind is actually talking back and arguing with this positive, conscious affirmation. It may say things like, “No you’re not.” “You’re in pain.” “Who are you kidding?”

Sound familiar?

I’ll bet it does. I’ve been asking my life coach clients to listen to their inner, reactive voice and tell me what it says, and they keep reporting these same simple negation phrases over and over.

Obviously, this can be a big problem, because as I already said, your subconscious mind is the one that controls more of your day-to-day choices and actions.

So we need a tool that positively engages the subconscious mind.

That tool is empowering questions. You’re subconscious mind is like a curious child. It loves questions. It engages with questions. It acts on questions. So the first thing you can do to make an affirmation more empowering to your subconscious mind is turn it into a question like this:

Why am I healthy?

You can probably already feel how that has more engagement and power than the original affirmation. Noah St. John calls this kind of statement an “afformation.”

Related Article: 4 Ways to Make BETTER Affirmations

I definitely prefer an afformation to an affirmation, but I don’t think it’s quite enough. The majority of my clients say their subconscious mind still argues with these kinds of affirmations.

Why does this happen? One big reason is because the statement is still using the unchanging “I am” and as physical beings, we are always expanding, progressing, becoming. There is no “am” because even as we say it, we are in transition. We are moving energy, constantly changing. And when we want to positively transform some aspect of our life, it helps to remind ourselves of this. Of course, we can change, we ARE change itself. Just as a tree is constantly growing, so are we.

So, the next step to creating an Empowering Question is to form the question in a progressive way like this, “Why am getting healthier?”

Now, if even that is hard for your subconscious mind to accept, then you can add a softener like “gradually” and you get, “Why am I gradually getting healthier?”

You’re creating ways for your subconscious mind to believe that you’re moving in a positive direction in whatever area you wish. And you’re allowing it to do it in daily baby steps – which is the organic way in which natural things actually progress.

Gardens don’t grown overnight. They grow gradually over time. And so do we. And it’s this growth, this progress – not some ideal end state – that makes us feel empowered, happy and alive.

So, just to summarize, here are the steps for changing an affirmation into an Empowering Question:

  1. Choose the affirmation : I am wealthy.
  2. Make it a why question: Why am I wealthy?
  3. Make it progressive: Why am I getting wealthier all the time? (Why are my finances improving?)
  4. If it’s needed for you to feel it in your bones, slow it down, by using “gradually.” Why am I gradually getting wealthier?” (drop the “gradual” when it no longer feels needed).
  5. If you’re repeating several Empowering Questions consecutively, pause after each one so your subconscious mind will have space to consider and create it’s own, positive answers.

Now remember, the only way any technique can work is if you use it, so test it out. Pick one or two Empowering Questions to do this week and repeat them several times throughout your day. Then check in at the end of the week to see how that area of your life has positively shifted. Enjoy!

Vicki Howie is the Creator of Chakra Boosters Healing Tattoos™ (find out what inspired her to create them here). Check out her new book “The Key to Your Chakras” here on amazon.com. Vicki is also the Creator of Chakra Love and the Chakra Life Cycle System®, as well as the Co-Editor of Conscious Life News. You can visit her website chakraboosters.com, facebook page and youtube channel for lots of free chakra info and gifts. Vicki’s biggest joy is to help you unleash your full chakra power and step into your highest potential.

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  1. I’m a big fan of Noah St. John’s afformations. I like your tweak of using progressive questions to make them more acceptable to the subconscious. I’ll be using this technique starting today.

  2. miketom@web.de' Mike says:

    I basically like this approach but still leaves me a little unclear as to why the
    subconcious mind should readily accept such a statement/question. couldn’t it just as easly reject the question?
    “Why am I gradually getting healthier?” the sub. could answer “why would you think you’re getting better?, I see no improvement.”
    Again I’d like the approach but would also like to understand why it should make all the difference.

  3. jonateen20@gmail.com' Jonathan Thomas says:

    I wasted several years communicating to my Subconscious mind, you know what it finally told me?……… Everything is Karma, we can’t cheat (which is the intention behind Affirmations or AF-Formations) our way to success, we must create success for others in whatever area we want success in, then we will have it.

    If we want to improve our appearance, we must help others improve theirs first, if we want more money, help others get more money first, if we want a relationship give of ourself first, if we want peace give others peace first. I want to emphasize the word FIRST cause everyone wants to do things after someone else has done it instead of doing it first.

    it’s all KARMA!!!

  4. rickepperley@yahoo.com' Rick says:

    Well…the “subconscious is subjective and makes no judgements. The conscious is objective. So if you have any “talking back” as you say, it is absolutely not your subconscious, but your conscious mind. You’re giving false info.

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