Can You Use Negative Thoughts in Affirmations? Try These Ideas Instead

Changing negative affirmations to more resourceful positive affirmations. Conveying the idea of positive affirmations and self-empowerment.

You want to change, so you’re coming up with affirmations that can help. Your first thought might be to try “I’m not lazy,” “I’m not a smoker,” or “I’m not shy.” When you look closely at those ideas, though, you realize that they’re all phrased negatively. Can you use negative words in affirmations?

Using negative words in affirmations isn’t too useful. For the most effective affirmations, you’ll want to craft them in a positive sense. Breaking your affirmation goals down into incremental steps can help you develop positive affirmations that you’ll fully believe.

Can You Use Negative Words in Affirmations? You Do You, But…

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, your affirmations are yours. I suppose that if you really want to use negative words in your affirmations, that’s your choice.

I can’t say I recommend it though.

The reason is that negative affirmations aren’t that useful. In fact, they’re counterproductive.

We live in a positive universe. Basically, you can’t think of a non-existent thing. It’s simply not possible.

Here’s a classic example:

If I tell you, “Don’t think about pink elephants,” what’s the first thing you’re going to do? Probably think about pink elephants!

There’s a reason for that. In order to NOT think about pink elephants, you first create that reality. You identify what a pink elephant is.

pink elephant

In the process of doing so, you created a pink elephant in your mind. You’ve done the exact opposite of what you were trying to do.

You simply can’t create a negative thing with your mind. When you try, what you’re really creating is the object of your negation.

Can You Use Negative Words in Affirmations? Try Positive Language Instead

With affirmations, we’re training our minds to recognize things in the world. We’re learning to connect ideas and see new things in the world. (Or, if you’re not a visual processor, you might connect better with the idea of feeling or hearing new things in the world.)

Affirmations are a way of choosing to align ourselves with the things we want to experience in the world. Why would you want to align yourself with things that you don’t want to experience? No, you want to find the opposite of that — aligning yourself with the things that you do want to experience!

So when we’re creating affirmations, we want to do it in positive language. That’s one of the key principles of crafting an affirmation for yourself. You can read all about it here in our extensive guide to affirmations.

Really, this idea of using positive language is right there in the name of this practice: affirmations. Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines the verb “affirm”:


   b: to state positively

2: to assert (something, such as a judgment or a decree) as valid or confirmed

3: to show or express a strong belief in or dedication to (something, such as an important idea)

Read part 1b again — the idea of positive affirmations is right there, plain and clear. When you practice affirmations, you are affirming something to yourself. In other words, you are stating something positive to yourself.

Can You Use Negative Words in Affirmations? Opt for Incremental Steps Instead

When you’re drawn to using negative words in your affirmations, it’s probably because you have a pretty strong connection with that idea in your current reality.

For example, if your first thought is to phrase your affirmation as “I’m not lazy,” it’s probably because you feel connected to the idea of laziness. Maybe that’s how you see yourself — as someone who dwells in lazy mode.

If that’s true, you may feel uncomfortable with an affirmation that’s the total opposite, such as “I’m highly motivated.” On its own, that’s a decent affirmation. But if that’s not how you currently view yourself, you may find it challenging to buy into that affirmation.

Effective affirmations are believable. When you try to use an affirmation that doesn’t feel believable to you, your brain may immediately put up walls around that idea.

Affirmations sink in a lot faster when we don’t spend half the time arguing with ourselves.

You may resort to brute force to get yourself to accept an unbelievable affirmation. For instance, you’ll bank your hopes on sheer repetition, aiming to say the affirmation 50,000, 100,000 or 250,000 times. Surely, if you say it 1,000 times a day for a year, you’ll start to believe it, right?

Maybe, maybe not. If your brain rebels a little bit every time you say it, you’ll pull yourself out of alignment with the thought. You’ll lose some of the juice of the affirmation.

To avoid this issue, you might need an intermediate step — or several — that can help you get to where you want to be.

Tuning Your Vibrational Frequency

In the Teachings of Abraham, Esther and Jerry Hicks talk about the Law of Attraction. They refer to this idea of taking intermediate steps as tuning your vibrational frequency. 

They put it like this: Imagine you’re riding on a merry-go-round. When you think certain thoughts, you get thrown off into the bushes. That’s what it’s like when you completely reject the vibrational frequency of the thing that you’re saying. 

merry go round

So they’d encourage you to find the highest vibrational thought that you can without falling into the bushes.

To put it another way:

  • Find your vibrational alignment with the affirmation thought that you’re thinking. 
  • Get a feel for an affirmation’s overall vibrational valence (its feel, whether positive or negative) for you.
  • Find the statement with the highest intensity that resonates with you.
  • Make that your affirmation until you’re ready to move on to the next step in the process.

Throughout it all, your goal is to maintain your equilibrium — to stay on the merry-go-round, so to speak. Find information that doesn’t throw you off into the bushes, and stick with that for as long as you need to.

Vibrational Frequencies: An Example

Going back to the laziness example, you could start with an affirmation like this: “I believe it’s possible for people to change the pattern of laziness.” That might get you to the next level up from the basic thought of “I’m lazy.”

Sure, it’s a pretty general statement. At this point, you’re just talking about people in general, not your specific situation. But that could be an intermediate step that helps you reach the point of creating personal change.

(What if you don’t yet find “I believe it’s possible for people to change the pattern of laziness” believable? Go down to a lower vibrational thought. Try “I believe people can change.” Still struggling with that one? It’s time for you and me to have a conversation. Check out The Shift to Freedom podcast. Start at the beginning and keep listening. It’ll open up the possibilities for you and help you find transformation.)

Once you’re on board with the idea that people can change a laziness pattern, you then can find a higher vibrational thought. You’ll incrementally move toward your ultimate goal.

It might look like this:

  1. I believe it’s possible for people to change their pattern of laziness.
  2. People can change from experiencing laziness to experiencing motivation.
  3. I believe I am the kind of person who can find motivation.
  4. Motivation is a skill.
  5. I can cultivate my sense of motivation.
  6. I am a motivated person.
  7. I am a highly motivated person.

With each step, you’ll move a little higher with the vibrational frequency.

Alternatives to Using Negative Words in Affirmations

Hopefully, the above example gives you specific ideas of how you can avoid using negative words in your affirmations while still developing a message that works for you. Let’s look at a few more illustrations.

Affirmations for Quitting Smoking

If your goal is to stop smoking, then what you actually want is a world in which smoking is no longer a thing you’re talking about in your life at all. When that’s your reality, you won’t even think about smoking.

To get there, your affirmations might include the following:

  • I have a loving relationship with my breath.
  • I have healthy coping mechanisms.
  • I make loving decisions for my lungs.
  • I make loving decisions for my body.
  • I’m the kind of person who likes to improve my health.
  • I’m the kind of person who loves to breathe deeply.

Through your affirmations, you’re designing a world in which you never think about smoking.

Affirmations for Overcoming Shyness

You might think of confidence as the opposite of shyness. But if you currently feel shy, an affirmation like “I am a confident person” might throw you off into the bushes.

Instead, you could try affirmations like:

  • I believe I can develop my confidence.
  • I believe I can find the answer.
  • I love people.
  • I love knowing people.
  • I love talking to people.
  • I love unveiling the mystery that is a new person.
  • I enjoy learning interesting facts about people.
  • I enjoy conversation.

You can figure out which of those affirmations resonates with you. Practice it and embody it. Remember that about yourself and your world.

For instance, if your current affirmation is “I enjoy learning interesting facts about people,” watch for that to happen. When an exciting fact comes up in conversation, point that reality out to yourself.

Hey, look! I really do enjoy experiencing that. That’s pretty cool. And, you know what? In this moment, I’m enjoying the conversation. I’m the kind of person who enjoys conversation.

As you recognize such moments in your reality, you’ll move to higher levels of vibration. You can use lower levels to believe your way into higher thoughts. And you can keep doing so until you get to a vibration that feels like your peak desired state.

If one of these positive affirmations clicks with you, it’s time to learn more about how to use it. Head over to our affirmations guide for a step-by-step walkthrough on how to incorporate affirmations practice into your daily life.
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