How to challenge negative thinking patterns using ‘I AM’ power statements 

Find out why the way we speak to ourselves influences our self-perception, and how to challenge negative thinking patterns using ‘I AM’ power statements.

The way that we speak to ourselves is of crucial importance and can skew our perception of ourselves. Our self-perception can also be influenced by our key relationships and the people around us. Sometimes, we internalise these perceptions without realising and this can shape how we live.

Grounding/power statements and positive affirmations can be used to bring your awareness back to the here and now. They are particularly helpful if you are having anxious or negative thoughts, as a way to challenge this thinking. You can read more on Serenity Kids’ Body Positive Affirmations.

Depending on the context, what you are feeling anxious about or what your negative thoughts are related to, you can use an ‘I am’ statement to challenge these thoughts. For example, if I was having anxious thoughts about feeling unsafe, with no real evidence that my safety is truly at risk, I may choose ‘I am safe’ as a grounding statement.

If I was having negative thoughts related to a lack of self-confidence, I might choose a statement like ‘I am good enough’, ‘I am worthy’, ‘I am improving daily’ or ‘I am a work in progress’.

‘I am’ power statements help build a new perception of yourself

Creating ‘I am’ power statements help you to affirm a new perception of yourself. The words ‘I am’ are hugely powerful and they set the tone for how you see yourself, how you interact with others and what you feel you are deserving of.

Your thoughts won’t change overnight, but making an effort to consciously affirm your power statements will help to change your thoughts, feelings and behaviours over time. There are two steps to this process, outlined below.

Step 1: Write a positives list

A positives list is a list of all of the internal attributes that you have and that no one can take away from you; it is what makes you who you are, and it is usually connected to your values. You do not have to come up with masses of things, particularly if this feels difficult at first.

You may also wish to reflect on what people who know you might say about you – for example, kind, caring, fun, loyal, diligent, creative, passionate, resilient, confident and so on. 

Spend at least ten minutes doing this and try to come up with at least ten items to begin with (you can keep adding to your list as you recognise more attributes through the evidence that you gather from your interactions). Highlight or indicate in some way 2–5 of the positive attributes on this list that stand out; you will use these items in the next step.

Step 2: Create your ‘I am’ statement

Ideally, your ‘I am’ statement should be taken from your positives list. What parts of yourself would you like to consciously focus on and solidify, or what would you like to feel more of? You can come up with as many statements as you like. Here are some examples:

  • I am confident
  • I am happy
  • I am secure
  • I am mindful
  • I am balanced

Make one of these ‘I am’ statements your daily affirmation. Then commit to affirming this daily for a set period of time, perhaps 30 days. You can affirm the statement in several ways, including: 

  • Repeating the statement out loud.
  • Recording yourself saying the statement and listening back.
  • Saying it to yourself in the mirror.
  • Writing it down.
  • Having reminders of it on post-it notes, a vision board or as a screenshot on your phone.
  • Using butterfly tapping to embody the statement. In this method, you close your eyes and cross your arms, as if you’re giving yourself a hug. You then start tapping on your upper arms, alternating your right and left hands. Get into a rhythm with your tapping and remember to keep alternating right then left. As you tap, you say the ‘I am’ statement either in your head or out loud, until you start to notice a shift in how you feel, either in your body or emotionally.

Some people like to create a series of affirmations and/or grounding statements that they say to themselves a few times a day or keep to hand where they can see them. Through this, they can regularly challenge negative thinking patterns. Remember, this is a process that takes consistency and practice. 

The practices of bringing ourselves back to the present help with creating objectivity in the now. They help ensure we are living in the moment rather than being influenced by the events of the past or our worries about the future. With more objectivity, we learn to respond rather than react, which improves our decision making and problem-solving skills.

It can also be an empowering process as, rather than feeling that we have no control, we can start to focus on the things that we can control. In this way, we realise that the power for making long-lasting changes lives within us.

Rina Bajaj is a Chartered-Counselling Psychologist with over 17 years of clinical experience within the field of mental health and wellbeing, working with a wide range of private and corporate clients. She supports individuals with the tools to develop healthier relationships, so that they can reach their full potential and live a fulfilling life.

Rina’s new book, The Magic in Me is all about how people can transform their relationship with themselves and the key people in their lives.