“Who am I?”
Many of us will circle back to this question at various times in our life. We are constantly on a quest to understand ourselves well and use this knowledge to guide us in relationships, careers, hobbies, self-reflection, and pastimes. This powerful question is a fundamental part of human existence, and it grows in strength during adolescence when our primary task, according to Erik Erikson, is to develop a sense of self and establish our identity – this includes finding answers to core questions such as “What do I want to do with my life?” “How am I similar or dissimilar to so-and-so?” “How does that inform how I feel about myself?” and, of course, the overarching: “Who am I?”
An intense period of identity formation occurs in adolescence as we explore these questions and eagerly seek answers. And, because identity formation is a deeply personal and incredibly individual process, there is no easy roadmap to success, no formula for discovering exactly who you are, no CliffsNotes summarizing what your identity means in your life, and no concise guide to understanding how it informs your relationships with those around you.
Talk about a monumental task!
As we journey toward self-discovery, almost all of us pick up some negative self-talk along the way, despite the best intentions of ourselves and those around us. Typically, this occurs as we become more aware of how our identity does or does not match cultural ideals, as we compare ourselves to others, and as we receive feedback from people in our lives.
To have a healthy and supportive relationship with yourself, you must actively cultivate positive self-talk, develop strategies to respond to negative voices (both internal and external), and find ways to build your confidence and self-worth.
One strategy for cultivating positive self-talk is practicing positive affirmations. My favorite example of positive affirmations can be found in this short, inspirational video:
Isn’t it so great?! I love watching this video and sharing it with others. The joy feels infectious! While this is a great example of how to use positive affirmations, your own affirmations may look very different. There’s no requirement to develop an entire routine, singing is not mandatory, and standing on the counter is likely not recommended… BUT finding some kind and encouraging things to say to yourself in the mirror throughout the day can make a powerful difference in how you think about yourself, and, by extension, how you treat yourself. Here are five strategies for adding positive affirmations in your own life to build confidence, cultivate positive self-talk, and create a sense of self-worth:
1. Pick something that you believe to be true about you. Even if you only believe it’s sometimes true (because none of us are killing it 100% of the time), you do need to find something that feels genuine. If you’re feeling stuck, try one of the below statements, or use Google to help you find one that feels best.
2. When you say your affirmation, bring to mind a specific time that you demonstrated this strength, skill, mindset, or characteristic. This helps you build evidence for yourself that the statement is true about you and programs your brain to remember this information and link it to specific memories, making it more readily accessible in the future.
3. Say your affirmation to yourself like you’re saying it to someone you love. This means: make gentle eye contact, consider smiling, speak genuinely. If you can easily envision speaking to your best friend this way, then you’ve got it!
4. Acknowledge that saying affirmations may feel silly. You might want to laugh, or roll your eyes, or add a humorous statement to the end of your affirmation (like….“I overflow kindness, and I sometimes do silly things to help myself feel better.”). All of those responses are okay! Inviting our playful parts to join us can be healing, too.
5. Say it regularly. You could try including your affirmation in your morning or bedtime routine, or you could even try saying it every time you look in a mirror throughout the day – imagine, every trip to the bathroom is an opportunity to program your brain for increased positivity and self-compassion!
What positive affirmation are you going to use this week?
If you’re looking for additional strategies to support yourself or your teen in cultivating positive self-talk, building confidence, and developing self-worth, contact C.H.E.R.I.I.S.H. Counseling to learn more about our individual, youth, family, and equine-assisted services.
And check out our Groups page to learn more about our Teen Empowerment group focused on building positive self-talk and strategies to promote positive self-esteem.