We Are What We Repeatedly Tell Ourselves 

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By Gabrielle Treanor

in Balance

We give ourselves messages in the way we talk to ourselves all the time. Everyone does it and it matters what we say because we’re listening. One way to harness the power of our inner dialogue is to use intentions, affirmations and mantras. They’re closely related but there is a subtle difference between each of them.

An intention is a decision or an action with a purpose. For example you could intend to try a new craft or you may have an intention to be kinder to yourself.

An affirmation is a short statement, usually starting with ‘I am’ that affirms a belief. It can be positive, for example ‘I am brave’, supportive ‘I am doing my best’ or negative ‘I am pathetic’.

A mantra is a repeated word or phrase. An affirmation can be turned into a mantra by simplifying it and repeating it over and over to yourself. As it’s a message you keep giving yourself it can reinforce positive or negative beliefs. For example, you could repeat over and over in your head ‘I can do this’ or simply keep telling yourself ‘Idiot’. 

Statements, phrases and words that we direct to ourselves, often repeatedly, can be powerful in affecting how we feel or think. If we keep telling ourselves negative messages that make us feel small, stupid, weak or incapable that will be how we feel and act. We won’t try new things, we won’t risk failure and we won’t believe in ourselves if the message we keep hearing in our own heads is critical and makes us feel bad.

So, by using positive affirmations, intentions and mantras we can flip this around to boost our self-belief. It’s not a matter of telling ourselves we’re brilliant at maths or we can be the best presenter and then we’re magically wonderful. It’s about giving ourselves encouraging, compassionate messages, that help set a positive tone in our own minds. 

This isn’t hollow positive thinking where you’re kidding yourself everything’s going to be great when it isn’t. Setting an intention requires you to think about what it is you want to do or feel or be, and to make the decision that you’re going to take steps towards that purpose. An affirmation can challenge and stretch you, helping you with the intention you’ve set. And a mantra is a succinct way to remind yourself of how you want to feel and what you want to do in the world.

Let’s take an example of how this can work in a practical way:

Your intention is to share more about yourself, your business or your knowledge. You could sum up this intention as ‘Today I will speak up’.

Now you can create one or several affirmations to support this intention, depending on what has been holding you back from or getting in the way of you speaking up in the world. So, your affirmation could be ‘I am brave’, ‘I know my stuff’, ‘I am good at what I do’ or ‘I have lots of value to share’. Or something else that you feel is encouraging and will help you with your intention.

And then you can create a mantra. This is a single word or a short phrase that you can repeat to yourself over and over to boost your self-belief and give you the confidence to follow through with your intention. In this scenario your mantra could be ‘I can do it’, ‘Be brave’ or ‘Smile and speak’.

Affirmations, intentions and mantras can help in any area of our lives because they are messages we give ourselves about how we want to feel, be and act in the world. They can be written down on post-it notes and stuck on your hall mirror, fridge, desk or in your purse. You can make an affirmation into a piece of art  with beautiful typography or stitch it onto a vintage handkerchief. You can have your mantra stamped into a piece of jewellery or set it as your phone homepage image. 

These aren’t magic words that make everything instantly easy and perfect. They’re simply words that we can use to give us confidence, to strengthen our resolve, to support us, to challenge us, to comfort us and to keep us moving forward. We give ourselves messages all the time in our inner dialogue, more often than not they’re critical and knock ourselves down, so why not use the power of words to support and build ourselves up?

So, what affirmations and mantras can you use to support your intentions? Here are a few suggestions to get you started.


Today I will take a moment to be still

Today I will be gentle with myself

Today I will be kind to someone

Today I will appreciate what I have

Today I will try something new

Today I will speak up


I am doing my best

I am brave

I believe in me

I am ready for today

I have value to share

I am in charge of me


Nothing needs to be perfect

Just breathe

One step at a time

It not now, when?

Yes I can

Let it go

Gabrielle Treanor is a writer and teacher specialising in the subject of how we can all worry less and enjoy life more. You can find inspiration, e-courses and a wellbeing resource library at

I'm Emily Quinton, photographer, writer, teacher and mother of four. Along with my husband Stef I run Makelight – a membership community for creators, makers and doers.

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