self esteem

What Common Self Esteem Exercise Can Actually Affect You Negatively??

Would you like to learn about a common self-esteem exercise that can actually affect you negatively? If so, you may be surprised at what you’re about to discover.

The community here at Pick The Brain is certainly aware of the benefits that high self-esteem has to offer.

You’ve probably read over and over (ad nauseam) about the power affirmations and positive self-speak have. Pick up a number of resources or talk to the experts and chances are you will hear about them in some form.

While I am one who strongly supports optimism, ambition, and aspirations, often there is something very important that is left out of the conversation when talking about affirmations.

An Experiment In Development

When I started on my quest for personal development and growth I had a very low sense of self-worth.

The lack of esteem I struggled with was reflective in my personal and professional life.

Sure, every now and then I’d feel pretty good, especially when something amazing would come along. But that internal feeling of fulfillment just didn’t stick around very long.

I knew that the first place I had to start was with myself, but found it frustrating because I just didn’t feel that great about who I was.

Without a solid sense of worth in myself, I knew that my accomplishments and achievements would continue to remain few and far between.

So I started to learn and experiment with a variety of exercises and tactics.

One thing I kept noticing was that affirmations seemed to be the most recommended and appeared easy to implement. But after putting them into practice for a while I became less and less satisfied with the results I was getting.

Why Affirmations Can Hurt Your Self-Esteem

An affirmation is simply a declaration that something is true or exists.

In matters of personal development and growth it typically includes verbal and/or internal statements of ones ability and worth.

Have you ever tried to blanket yourself in positive words and thoughts?

Your hopes for seeing a change are there, your mind and meaning for doing so are certainly in the right place, but the results just aren’t.

So what are you doing wrong?

If you’re simply telling yourself “I am great,” it means nothing if you don’t feel it’s true. It’s just talking the talk.

Say you’ve been struggling to pay the bills and falling behind financially. Telling yourself you’re rich just isn’t going to work for you, unless you believe in your ability to turn a profit.

If your relationship is on the brink of destruction and you tell yourself everything is just fine, you are misleading yourself. The proper solutions and corrections will not come about until the trust in yourself and your relationship comes from a genuine place.

The problem with pouring on the affirmations (in any sense) is not the act of being positive with yourself, it’s the structural foundation beneath your words.

You’ve got to feel it and be assured of your potential and ability to change your life, relationship, and finances, in order to attract the positive results you seek.

If you’re feeling down or hurt in some manner, cheeky words and exercises can potentially cause you to spiral down even further.

There’s a verbal and mental disconnect between what you’re saying and thinking, and what your feeling.

Why tell yourself you feel good, when you feel like junk?

Negativity Turned Upside Down

While being happy and positive is a choice, I can’t tell you how many individuals I’ve encountered who just can’t move themselves to make it.

If you’ve been feeding yourself hurtful and negative self-talk for some time, chances are you’ve now established negative core beliefs.

Think about this. You may have been subjected to a lifetime full of negative affirmations. Dumping all the kind words and happy statements on yourself just isn’t going to cut it.

On a daily basis our level of self-esteem is scrubbed against our experiences. Some experiences are better than others.

The best way to spin a negative into a positive is to accept that nobody is immune to the highs and the lows, or the drama of the day.

We all have car issues, arguments with our spouses, trouble with the kids, and setbacks at work. That’s just the order in which the circumstances play out for us all.

The big difference though is not in how many problems you face or how much drama you’re subjected to – it’s how you move past it.

Action Steps For Building Esteem Today

1) Embrace The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Learn to accept the victories and perceived failures equally, for there is room to grow with both. Whether good or bad, you now have a result. Use your results as a means to gauge and set your next course of action. Celebrate your accomplishments and find opportunities in adversity.

2) See Past The Fear, Doubts, and Uncertainty

You may currently believe, fear, or think that success and happiness are not something that you deserve. You may even feel guilty or undeserving of a simple compliment.

If you haven’t tapped it, there is a dormant skill set within you. Fears and limiting beliefs are tools of procrastination and avoidance. If you tend to find yourself stuck in one place often, just move. Go beyond your doubts to establish either a new beginning and/or a starting place.

3) Focus On Potential, Not Production

One of the great hurdles for those struggling with low self-esteem is act of believing in their own worth. If you feel that you must accomplish or produce something to be of value, then you are mistaken.

It is knowing and getting excited about your potential to be great, produce, earn, and thrive which fosters high self-esteem. You don’t have to lift a finger or generate a result to feel good in your own skin.


Remember: Beliefs shape your attitude, which affect your decisions, in turn affecting your results in life.

High self-esteem is reached and then amplified when you arrive at a place of belief in yourself and your own promise. If your currently struggling with this, just the act of reaching out to find the right resource, article, or mentor, is a step in the right direction.


I’d love to hear what you think about this. Have you, or do you currently, struggle with building self-esteem? If so, what seems to be your biggest hurdle? Please leave your comments below and don’t forget to Tweet, Share, and Like.


Jason Anthony is founder of EvenMinds, a personal growth and development resource for those who think alike and are looking to empower themselves and enhance their well being. Visit today and receive a free course on building powerful and dynamic relationships just for signing up for their newsletter.

Photo credit: ‘Being and Seeker’ from BigStock

41 Responses to What Common Self Esteem Exercise Can Actually Affect You Negatively??

  1. Thank you. This kinda answer a big question in my life right now. I use affirmation too but does not stick to it bcos of the negativity I felt & then forced down. I’ll looked back and see how I could turn around my negative feelings. 

  2. Kevin K. says:

    Dr. Wayne Dyer would disagree with you on affirmations, I’m pretty sure.

  3. Catherine says:

    You are SO right.  When it comes to affirmations, if it feels wrong – stop.  I know from personal experience that it may not be wrong, it’s just not right for you just now.

  4. Anonymous says:

    At 33yrs of age, this all points to my whole life experience so far and is something I have been thinking about for a long time.

    When I was a teenager and ‘nieve’ I hadn’t heard much about positive affirmations and so lived my life by feel and less emotion, and amongst some other difficulties out of this scope, I have reassuring memories that things can be different.

    I’ve recognised for a while now that I react more with emotion than feel and this is where I get it wrong.

    ‘Staying positive’ does push down important emotions that help you deal with problems on a genuine level. Albeit difficult, they hurt in a more understanding way back in my teens than they do now.

    Unfortunately since I have been focusing on getting this skill back, the biggest struggle I find is experiencing it with people who understand this also.

    I think though that there are affirmations out there that are on the right track, like this article, it’s keeping your eyes peeled for the ones that speak your language.


  5. Thank you, Jacqueline!  Im very happy that it found you at the right time :)

  6. Yes, there is absolutely nothing wrong with positive self-talk, but without the right amount of belief behind it, it can feel just like words.. thanks, Catherine!

  7. Thanks for reading, Kevin! 

  8. There is certainly a difference between denial of the negative and embracing it as a part of life so you can move on.  Very moving, Shelby.  Thank you so much for sharing!  

  9. Ben Holt says:

    I agree with you, Jason, about the potential issues with affirmations. The best way to use them, and I do use them with great benefit, is to affirm your reality. I don’t tell myself I’m successful or rich or influential. I affirm the progress I’m making toward my goals. I am working everyday to learn more. I am making smart, steady progress toward building my business.  These things are my reality, so there’s no lie, no forced positivity.

    As much as I affirm the positive, I embrace the “negative” – the self-doubt, the mistakes, the lazy days – because it’s all part of the experience. What can I learn from this? What is this experience telling me about my work and my life?

    The original affirmation, “every day, in every way, I am getting better and better” is wonderful because it’s always true (as long as that is our attitude), yet still allows room for mistakes and setbacks.

  10. Ally says:

    I used to believe I wasn’t a good mother. Mainly because my own mother was always telling what I needed to do. I felt very inadequate.  Six months into therapy I was able to believe I was a good mother no matter what my mother said to me. I had to believe it myself.

  11. Karin Burke says:

    You’ve hit on a big truth, and I thank you for writing it.  There is an odd disconnect: why do so many people want to feel better about themselves?  Why is self-help a billion dollar industry?  Why are there thousands and thousands of books and tapes and suggestions?  If pop-psychology really worked, then why are we all still so frightened and unsure?

    I am a yoga teacher.  I found, in yoga, a variation on affirmation and spirituality and self-worth that actually made sense and FELT right to me.  Felt honest.  It feels honest because it starts with reality, rather than ‘should’s or ‘just believe it’.  If you can honestly stand with whatever is real in you, THEN you can begin the processes of healing and power and raw love.  But without that reality check, you may end up feeling worse.

    I specialize in working with ‘non-yoga-studio’ populations, and watch over and over again how what we most need is a safe place to witness the truth of our lives.  Sometimes with posture, sometimes with meditation, sometimes with philosophy or diet or habits.  The truth of our lives is honest, and honestly good: That there IS pain.  That there is fear.  But there is also something else.  There is joy as deep as pain is.

  12. Opus Magno says:

    Hi there! Just read your article here at work and I’m passing through a great phase of “tuning”/”chanelling” my beliefs about my potential to arts. I got greatly inspired and amazed how that feeling was so well translated into words. Thanks a lot!!

  13. Opus Magno says:

    Hi there! Just read your article here at work and I’m passing through a great phase of “tuning”/”chanelling” my beliefs about my potential to arts. I got greatly inspired and amazed how that feeling was so well translated into words. Thanks a lot!!

  14. JUDYDELU says:


  15. Seeasiseaphotos says:

    Well said…I am glad to see this post today.  I asked and  I shall recieve.  Building self esteem from years of uncertainity is a powerful and deserving lesson. Thank you for your attention to the unspoken. I have always heard and just recently understood how to meditate and to forgive. I thought,until the unresounding gut raunchy feeling, I still wasnt at peace.  As I sit quiet, I continue to recognize that no metter what I have learned I could not find a sense of unity in my soul. I shall read your article again…if you have any other suggestion or thoughts ,I would  gladly love to read.  THanks… I feel stuck.  I believe my biggest hurdle is the world is full of stress hate and violence and it bleeds negativity.  Why is it I feel I  must always be protective? It reminds me of years of abuse. I can find a peace but it doesnt last.

  16. Anne says:

    Very interesting concept…it is like you want things to change BUT they don’t in reality change with self talk…it also takes action. 
     I often think of the slaves in america who were trapped in a situation they could not get away from…it would seem from some of their spiritual songs they were lifted in spirits to believe in a better life one day whether it was in their daily struggle on earth or in heaven in the arms of a loving God.   Song seems to have been a catalyst to life the soul in many cultures. 
    Now in our modern world we only want to hear the best singers and discourage people from singing as it is not perfect.  We seem to strive for perfection and it is bad if you make mistakes…FEAR of failure to measure up to others ideals and perfection seems to affect alot of people.  Shyness was something I struggled with as a child …I was not belittled in any way by family …it was just me …to a certain extent I was afraid of what people would say if I failed …not sure in my mind as a child drove that fear. 

  17. Great wisdom, Ben! Thanks for reading and your thoughtful comment.

  18. It all starts in one place, Ally. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Thanks, Karen.  What a wonderful perspective and story about all you do to help others!

  20. Glad it found you at the right time, Opus!  Thank  you!

  21. Sharing with others is a great way to help.  thanks for reading, Judy!

  22. Thanks for reading, Seeasiis!  Know that its OK to feel bad, its natural and a part of the process.  Please feel free to reach out with any further inquires!  

  23. Right, Anne.  For example we wish and talk about changing all we want but it would be pointless if we did not put action behind it.

    Fear of failure is very real for many, but does not have to be an ongoing struggle.  Thank you deeply for the comment, it is greatly appreciated!  

  24. Ranga says:

    This is something I’ve battled with all my life and I came to similar conclusions about affirmations as you have.
    I have found one key problem in dealing with self-esteem and that is emotion. The negative emotions are so strong sometimes that no amount of affirmations help.
    What seems to work (and I haven’t cracked it yet) is that if I can somehow turn off my emotions and take a look at myself realistically then suddenly there is no negative or positive. It is just reality and I’m like a robot just reading the particulars of my life. I call it the safe mode, and if we can get to the safe mode, we can see what’s bothering us, without getting emotional and then accept it and change it. Once we are back on the path of change we can come out of safe mode.
    It’s still a working theory but I’ve had varying degrees of success with it.

  25. D Arlando Fortune says:

    When I first began using affirmations, I typed them up, printed them out, and carried them with me. Periodically, I would pull them out and say them out loud to myself. I was living in DC at the time. So, occasionally I would go for walks during my lunch. Out would come the strips of paper with my affirmations printed on them. This was a happy period of my life and reading the affirmations boosted my spirits a bit more. A few years later when things in my life were not going so well the same affirmations would make me smile but not long after saying them I would fall right back in my ho-hum.

    I am an advocate of affirmations. However, as you mentioned, Jason, it is a bit more difficult to get the full affect when the body, mind and spirit are not coordinated. It’s almost like eating chocolate cake when I feel bad cause I like chocolate cake and I hope that by eating some I will feel better. But, I think we all will agree that eating chocolate cake when we are in a good mood makes the cake taste that much better (and we do not feel guilty for trying to deny our feelings).

    From my experience, it is better to use affirmations when you have dealt with your emotions. In my opinion, affirmations are much more effective when you are in the proper state. I actually wrote about how to get into this state and use directed affirmations.

  26. Megan says:

    This makes a lot of sense to me, being told to say, think, or fake happy, positive things about myself usually only results in a feeling of failure and sarcasm from my own mind. In a way I don’t want to think positively about myself, why would I? Advice to affirm beliefs I don’t hold and especially when I am very aware of what I’m doing doesn’t help, and I won’t do it.

  27. GP Hintz says:

    I think you are hitting the nail on the head. Especially when you talk about the progression that we find with our thoughts. The idea that our beliefs shape our attitudes which shape our decisions which shape our life is the very foundation of life transformation. If you want to change your life… it will have to start at the very core of the beliefs which you have in your life. No thought change = No life change. Great job! GP

  28. Cece & Mark says:

    I completely agree with what you wrote. Affirmations will not work unless you have a rational, cohesive belief system behind WHY you are thinking these potentially positive thoughts. I am a firm beleiver in Rational Optimism TM. It provides a cohesive, empowering view of life that is based in frontier science and 17th century philosophy (think: Descartes, for instance).

  29.  Excellen, Cece & Mark!  Than you very much for your feedback!

  30.  Appreciate it,GP! It really is a simple process, but one thats often overlooked.  Glad you enjoyed the post!

  31.  Agreed.  It’s quite alright to experience the other side of happiness.  Very happy to hear that it resonated with you, Megan. 

  32.  It is a coordination process, and managing emotions is something I believe everyone should study and practice :)  Thanks for the comment and visiting over at Evenminds, D Arlando!

  33.  I like to let those negative emotions (or thoughts) run their course.  Its perfectly natural and alright to feel bad, and a big misconception that we should be happy ALL the time.  That would be robot, and frankly, quite boring :)  Thanks so much for taking part in the discussion, Ranga!

  34. Marie Milligan says:

    Thanks for posting Jason and offering a different perspective on affirmations. As a life & business coach, I can certainly say that lack of self-esteem is one of the greatest hurdles that people face in getting to reach their full potential. Affirmations are often sited as a really easy way to tackle this daily. But you’re right, they’re not always effective at making sustainable & deep changes, unless used correctly.

    What I mean by correctly, is like any development tool, they don’t always work well in isolation. Affirmations are more effective when used in conjunction with a wide holistic programme that covers mind, body & soul. That could include, but are not exclusive to, things like coaching/CBT counselling for mind, nourishing food/yoga/some form of exercise for body, meditation* and spiritual/creative acts for the soul!  The list is long there so apologies if I’ve missed out all you amazing holistic/well-being practioners out…*Getsomeheadspace is a great free download by the way. 10 mins a day.

    If negative ‘saboteurs’ have been there long enough that they become subconscious, then the repetition of daily affirmations is more about trying to create new patterns but at first that has to be done consciously which can seem alien at first.  It’s not so much about tricking the mind into false emotion or belief, but rather offering a sense of relief for the mind & body to hear at least SOME positive statements per day, when it’s so used to hearing negative!  Even if the mind/body is savvy enough to know they don’t quite believe it yet…

    For example, before affirmations it might hear “I’m really bad at…look fat..can’t do that…not good enough…” (fear/caution/doubt).  With an affirmation it might STILL hear the same phrases at first (because they’re deep rooted & take awhile to shift)…but there’ll be at least ONE positive phrase in there if not more! i.e. “I’m learning daily…I’m perfect as I am…I can try to do that even if I’m not the best…” (courage, trust, belief). Eventually, with practice, the balance of negative & positive ‘self-chat’ is more evenly spaced out…and the positive affirmations start to creep into the subconscious!  But again, reading a book on affirmation is not going to get you to the root of the blocks on your own.  Similar to when you’re re-training your body, you don’t read 1 fitness magazine to get fit, or go to do 1 session at the gym.  Retraining muscle (especially the mind) takes practice, determination, willingness to change, the support of trained professionals who can help you get the best out of your programme & the support of other people going through the same to champion you on!  Try the difference of combing affirmations with the mind/body/soul method – and see the different it makes…Sorry, I posted a lot more than intended there….but I hope everyone got the gist! Thanks! Marie

  35. Awesome, Marie!  Practice, determination, willingness to change is so vital and I strongly agree that affirmations can work as part of a larger process and effort.  Thanks for sharing your insight!

  36. Thinus says:

    While being happy and positive is a choice, I can’t tell you how many individuals I’ve encountered who just can’t move themselves to make it. ”

    choosing to be happy is choosing to ignore the things that make us unhappy (for good reason) – happiness is not a choice, it is the ensuing result of action

  37. Thinus says:

    While being happy and positive is a choice, I can’t tell you how many individuals I’ve encountered who just can’t move themselves to make it. ”

    choosing to be happy is choosing to ignore the things that make us unhappy (for good reason) – happiness is not a choice, it is the ensuing result of action

  38. Thinus says:

    While being happy and positive is a choice, I can’t tell you how many individuals I’ve encountered who just can’t move themselves to make it. ”

    choosing to be happy is choosing to ignore the things that make us unhappy (for good reason) – happiness is not a choice, it is the ensuing result of action

  39. Suzie says:

    This is so spot on.  Unless you have the belief in something, you’re heart won’t be in it.

  40. Bobbi Emel says:

    Jason, this is such a breath of fresh air! And I say that as a therapist! I am not a fan of affirmations and don’t prescribe them for my clients. 

    And, because of some studying I’ve been doing recently, I’m not a big fan of self-esteem, either. The problem with it is usually what we do to achieve it. Your suggestions are spot-on but many of us have the idea that what we DO is what our self-esteem is built on, and that’s a tenuous foundation.

    I’ve been reading quite a bit about self-compassion, especially Kristin Neff’s work on this, and I think having compassion for yourself is one of the best ways to achieve all of the things that self-esteem promises.

    Thanks for a great post!

  41. Quotes Life says:

    Wow, that’s great. Thanks for sharing about “What Common
    Self Esteem Exercise Can Actually Affect You Negatively??” I think
    you’ve made some truly interesting points. Not too many people would actually
    think about this the way you just did.

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