Almost All Sports Psychologists Have Positive Affirmations Wrong

Positive Affirmations

Positive Affirmations
Sports psychologists have said it so often that everybody knows that positive self-talk and and the regular use of positive affirmations improve gymnastics confidence and performance. ERROR. WRONG. NOT! Affirmations are primarily a conscious mind tool and conscious mind tools cannot overcome the power of the subconscious, unless properly constructed and used correctly.

The Inner Workings of the Mind

The emotions and feelings of the subconscious mind are a result of the lifelong programming it has received. Relatively early on, as a part of the mind’s adaptation to potential information overload (dealing with the constant input of data from all five senses at once is too much for the mind to deal with) begins an automatic filtering process. By the time gymnasts (and other athletes) are old enough to train and compete, the subconscious mind has developed certain filtering mechanisms to simplify mental processes. One of those filters out any conscious statement that does not match the already established beliefs of the subconscious. If a conscious mind statement matches your beliefs, it is accepted as confirming evidence. If the conscious mind statement is contrary, in any way, to currently held subconscious beliefs, it is filtered out and has little to no effect.

What Does This Mean for Affirmations?

If affirmations do not match or are significantly different from a gymnast’s subconscious beliefs, they will simply be filtered out and have no appreciable effect and no changes will occur as the result of the use of the affirmations. A simple gymnastics example would be for a young, compulsory level gymnast to be told to use an affirmation like “I am an Olympic gymnast.” or even “I am a great gymnast.” It is too easy for the subconscious to filter these affirmations out because they are obviously not true for a gymnast at this level, they won’t match the deep emotions and feelings of the mind, they are contrary to the gymnast’s actual experience and and are counter to their belief systems. That means affirmations like that will simply not work for gymnasts and are essentially a waste of time.

Affirmations Can Have An Effect

None of this is to say that positive affirmations are not useful or cannot have a positive effect. It simply means that the successful use of affirmations is not as simplistic as is commonly believed and that the standard sport psychology suggestions for affirmation construction are insufficient for them to work.

Affirmations Must Be Progressive To Have A Positive Effect

Just like with gymnastics skills, there are affirmation progressions that must be followed to take an athlete from one mental state, like a lack of confidence, to a confident state of mind. There are a number of steps and types of affirmations that need to be used to make an impression and have any effect on the subconscious mind, which controls emotions like confidence and all physical movement habits like gymnastics skills and routines.

What Does It Take To Make Affirmations Efficiently Effective

There are also specific wording techniques, up to 10 progressions of wording and specific affirmation use techniques that can make affirmations effective to a very useful degree. But the normal sport pop psychology advice about affirmations and their construction is insufficient. The question is who really knows how to use affirmations correctly and who is simply repeating what was supposed to be common wisdom.


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