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Positive self-statements do more harm than good

Washington, Sat, 04 Jul 2009 ANI

Washington, July 4 (ANI): While self-help books are considered to boost a person's moral, a piece of research now suggests that positive self-statements in such books may actually leave people with low self-esteem and feeling worse about themselves.

 

Psychologists Joanne V. Wood and John W. Lee from the University of Waterloo, and W.Q. Elaine Perunovic from the University of New Brunswick, found that individuals with low self-esteem actually felt worse about themselves after repeating positive self-statements.

 

In the study, the researchers asked participants with low self-esteem and high self-esteem to repeat the self-help book phrase "I am a lovable person."

 

Then the psychologists measured the participants' moods, and their momentary feelings about themselves.

 

It was found that the individuals with low self-esteem felt worse after repeating the positive self-statement, compared to another low self-esteem group who did not repeat the self-statement.

 

The individuals with high self-esteem felt better after repeating the positive self-statement, but only slightly.

 

In a follow-up study, the psychologists allowed the participants to list negative self-thoughts along with positive self-thoughts.

 

Surprisingly, they found that moods of the participants with low self-esteem fared better when they were allowed to have negative thoughts than when they were asked to focus exclusively on affirmative thoughts.

 

The psychologists suggested that, like overly positive praise, unreasonably positive self-statements, such as "I accept myself completely," could provoke contradictory thoughts in individuals with low self-esteem.

 

Such negative thoughts can overwhelm the positive thoughts, and if people are instructed to focus exclusively on positive thoughts, they may find negative thoughts to be especially discouraging.

 

The authors concluded: "Repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people [such as individuals with high self-esteem] but backfire for the very people who need them the most."

 

The study has been published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. (ANI)

 


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