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Why Are “I Am” Affirmations So Powerful?

They're easy, popular and, apparently, effective. Here's why they work to boost your confidence.

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“I am…” affirmations are easy and popular. Whether it’s “I am enough” or  “I am a force of good in the world,” or even—on days when the going has gotten really tough—”I am strong enough to make it through one more Zoom meeting,” owning your awesomeness is an accessible way to remind yourself that you got this (no matter what this is).

In fact when we recently asked YJ readers about their go-to affirmations “I am…” affirmations were more often cited than any other kind. But what does confidently asserting something to be true actually do for you?

Repeating certain sacred sounds and phrases has traditionally been an important part of yoga practice since ancient times. The Soham mantra—translated as “I am That”—is one of the most significant because it connects you to your highest power. 

“You can put so many things after the “I am…” says yoga teacher Kiesha Battles, of I Am Yoga in Charlotte. “Saying ‘I am’ in positive ways is like medicine for the mind.”

You might be thinking: What if I am…not? The ancients would say that those feelings of insecurity are manifestations of avidya—lack of awareness. You’re in the dark about the powerful things that are possible for you. That’s where the positive “I am” affirmations come in. They throw light on the subject and help you see the possibilities for yourself.

Act As If

In fact, psychologists often prescribe a form of “I am” affirmation for clients who are trying to get unstuck or make a change in their lives. They call it the “act as if” approach. It’s not a prescription for faking it, but for practicing having the experience you want to have. 

The key is repetition, says Battles. Connecting to an affirmation is a practice like any other. “The more I repeat it the more it becomes true to me and the more it weaves through everything in my life.”  She suggests sticking to a mantra for a month or more. Keep repeating it during your meditation time and throughout your day until it’s like a song playing in the background all the time. 

Trust the Process

Balance confidence in your affirmation with a sense of abyasa–detachment from the outcome, she says: “You repeat the mantra, but you trust the mantra.” Rather than getting too tied up in an outcome that looks exactly like what you might envision, trust the process and watch to see how it manifests for you. Your “I am capable” mantra may be tested when you receive a new opportunity at work. “I am confident” may help you nail that group presentation.

Research shows that practices that affirm our value in the world help us feel more adequate and capable–and more like ourselves. And those studies suggest there’s a bonus for everyone around you: When you feel good about yourself, you have the mental and emotional space to become “more open and responsive to the needs of others.” 

Ultimately, “I am…” affirmations are a deeply personal way for you to connect with all of your strengths and possibilities.  If nothing else, they help you feel great. Because you are.