Let me tell you about a demon. It keeps you safe and small, makes sure you’re in your place. It stops you from leaning out too far, leaning in to new adventures, and saying yes to any kind of change or risk. It’s kind of like a helicopter parent, and lives right in your head. That demon is called self-doubt.
Scenario 1: Self-Doubt
If you’ve been on a roll, spending the last few weeks listening to target language podcasts and seeing your tutor on a regular basis, then you’re expecting progress. You’re expecting a measurable, tangible feeling that this is worth the effort. And when that feeling doesn’t arrive, you start wondering why you bother.
Scenario 2: Self-Doubt Again
And here is the other side: You may have been feeling stuck during the past weeks. The language YouTube videos didn’t make you feel like you understand very much at all. You tried a language exchange and still couldn’t tell them about your week fluently. You’re starting to…guess what?…doubt yourself and second guess if language learning is even the right project for you.
Do You Recognise These Signs?
There are so many ways that self-doubt starts manifesting itself when you are a self-directed language learner. I bet you have experienced some of these before. I know that I do, and it takes one to know one:
- Putting half an hour into study time, feeling no smarter than before, wondering if you’re using the wrong method
- Spending five hours online researching study techniques, and zero hours doing any study
- Accumulating 10,000 points on Duolingo, then getting bored with it and thinking you picked the wrong language
- Buying every new resource out there, and using none of them
If you are finding yourself stuck in one of those ruts, you need to take action as soon as possible. Shifting your mindset towards becoming the kind of person that allows success to be a natural consequence of what they do is the key to moving forward. In all my conversation with language learners and polyglots and people who are happy about learning and people who are not, there’s always one clear definition: Everyone who is a great language learner believes in themselves. This is not an optional part of studying. You can say yes or no to flashcards, textbooks and italki. But you must never say no to your own learning capacity.
Using Affirmations to Get Unstuck
In today’s article, I want you to think about building affirmations into your learning practice. Shifting the idea about what kind of person you are from “Someone who struggles to learn Italian/German/French etc.” to “A committed lover of Italian/German/French etc” will make a huge difference. J from the Compassionate Language Learner blog wrote about this very topic recently in a post declaring how they use a careful approach to identity to make sure they stay on top of language learning. If you have never tried the same thing but have ever heard that annoying voice in your head asking you if you can really become fluent in this language, then this is something you have got to read. Building that fabulous positive image of yourself as someone who learns languages and enjoys regular successes.
Stop listening to voices in your head that say you’re not smart enough. Stop wondering about age, forgetfulness or which dictionary is the best. Just enjoy the ride.
Okay, so let’s get back to the affirmations. Like Wikipedia says, an affirmation is a statement saying that something is true. The concept of using statements like this to help your personal growth might feel a bit new-agey to you, but bear with this because positive thinking and affirmations are often linked to happiness and increased performance in studies. Beware though: Your affirmations must be credible to you and at least somewhat realistic, otherwise they won’t work. The idea is not to convince yourself, but to remember what you are good at.
Let me share my own affirmation, written right onto the board that I keep behind my computer screen. It says “(Pretend) You’re Awesome”. Sometimes I have a hard time remembering that I am awesome, but I can always pretend. This reminds me to take 10 seconds to close my eyes and imagine all of the awesome things that I do. It works because I am pretending, but at the same time concentrating on a positive image of myself.
Three Affirmations To Work With
Of course you can create any affirmation or positive image at all, but maybe you need a suggestion to get you started. The following three ideas might just work wonders and get you back to your book, your tutor or your homework.
If your inner voice says: "I’m never going to be great at this"
If your inner voice says: "I am struggling with my language"
If your inner voice says: "I keep making mistakes"
How To Use These Graphics
These graphics are designed to keep you remembering that you've totally got this. Pin them to your Pinterest. Print them out, post them where you can see them every day or write them down every single day. You’ll only be investing seconds of your time, but who knows, it might boost your success by 500%!
Good luck and let me know how it goes!