“You have breast Cancer, and it is stage three”. The doctor said. Emily’s mouth hung open, but no words were coming out. “Miss! Miss!Miss!The doctor kept calling, but her thoughts had wandered far away, imagining how her mum would feel and how much everyone at home would wail when she told them she had only three months to live. “What are my chances of surviving?”. Hope asked. “3 months without surgery and one year with chemo”. “Either way, I would still die, right,” She asked. The doctor nodded but said, “It is worth giving a shot, though”. 

Dejected, Hope left the doctor’s office worse than she felt when she arrived. If someone had told her a year before that she would have only three months to live, she would have punched that person in the face and called him or her a prophet of doom. However, here she was, the doctor had told her himself. He had given her his professional opinion. Unlike most people, Hope decided to do things differently. She refused to allow the doctor’s opinion to frame her life. Instead, she began to affirm that she would live despite the claims made by the doctor. And guess what? She did. A year later, She ran tests and the report shows no traces of cancer. 

The term self-affirmation is traceable to the French psychologist and pharmacist Émile Coué. Coué observed that his patients recovered faster whenever he helped them to expect recovery. Hence, he developed the optimistic autosuggestion, which focused mainly on positive suggestions that patients would repeat to themselves repeatedly. Not just this, he also wrote short positive notes and attached them to their prescriptions (Hamilton, 2021). With time, the term ‘optimistic autosuggestion’ was replaced by ‘positive affirmations’, but the basic idea remained: reiterate core values (Self Affirmation).

This psychological technique has effectively augmented interventions across multiple domains (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). It can increase physical activity levels by helping people reflect on personal core values and rewarding experiences. It increases focus on sources of positive value to individuals (Cascio et al., 2015). Aside from this, self-affirmations allow for the efficient use of psychological resources when confronted with a threat. (Sherman, 2013).

Every day, people face several challenges that threaten their happiness and self-image. They still have to navigate difficulties, manage potentially threatening information, and maintain a rosy outlook about themselves and their worlds (Nelson et al., 2014). Self-affirmation is essential because it improves self-esteem and confidence, reduces the tendency for procrastination, increases productivity and also helps individuals form more profound and more genuine relationships with others.


Cascio, C.N., O’Donnell, M.B., Tinney Jr. F.J., L., M.D., T., E. S., S., V.J. & Falk, E.B. (2015). Self-Affirmation Activates Brain Systems Associated with Self-Related Processing and Reward and is Reinforced by Future Orientation. Oxford University Press.

Cohen, G.L., Sherman D.K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual Rev Psychol 65:333–371.  

Hamilton, D. R. (2021). Why Woo Woo Works: The surprising science behind meditation, reiki, crystals and other alternative practices. Hay House U.K. London. ISBN 9781401961701

Nelson K. S., Fuller J. A. K., Choi, I., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). Beyond Self-Protection: Self-Affirmation Benefits Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being. Psychological Studies. Sage Publication.

Sherman D.K. (2013). Self-affirmation: understanding the effects. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7(11), 834–45. Google Scholar.


Coach Adetutu is a Pharmacist, Co-founder Hazon Holdings, MD/CEO Wellness Healthcare group, health tech enthusiast, Emotional & Mental Wellness Coach and Doctoral Student, her earnest desire is to influence individuals to make healthy lifestyle choices.

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