You’re probably familiar with positive affirmations – short phrases like “I love myself”, “my body is beautiful”, or “I radiate confidence”.

Many people like repeating these phrases to themselves – in an effort to replace negative self-talk with kinder thoughts – but do they actually work?

The short answer is no – not if you don’t believe the affirmations you keep repeating to yourself.

When you don’t believe it, this creates cognitive dissonance and it will actually make you feel worse.

If you believe you’re fat and ugly and you try to tell yourself that you’re gorgeous and your body is amazing, your brain is going to respond with something like “yeah, right. That’s so stupid” – which will only reinforce the negative views you already have.

If positive affirmations don’t work, what should we try instead?

I’ve found bridge thoughts (also called ladder thoughts) to be way more useful.  I first learned this concept from Brooke Castillo (who has an amazing podcast, by the way).

Instead of telling yourself something you don’t believe, tell yourself a “bridge” thought.  This is a thought you actually believe that feels just a little better than your original negative thought.

Here’s an example:

  • Negative thought: I look so fat.
  • Positive affirmation (that you won’t believe): My body looks amazing.
  • Possible bridge thoughts that are believable to you:
    • I don’t like my body right now, and that’s okay.
    • I’m learning to accept my body.
    • It’s possible I could like my body one day (exactly the size it is right now).
    • Human bodies are kind of funny looking.
    • There are certain things I like about my body.
    • I appreciate the things my body is able to do.

Many of these thoughts aren’t super positive, but they feel a lot better than “I look so fat” and you actually believe them.  These bridge thoughts can help you slowly move inch by inch to a new, more positive view of your body.

Even if you never get to “I love my body”, you’ll likely find the bridge thoughts to be way more useful than your original negative thought(s).

Try it out and see how it goes 😊