Can Self-Help Make You Feel Worse?
July 25, 2009
Researchers found that people with low self-esteem actually felt worse after repeating positive statements about themselves.
They said phrases such as "I am a lovable person" only helped people with high self-esteem.
The researchers asked people with high and low self-esteem to say "I am a lovable person.” They then measured the participants' moods and their feelings about themselves. In the low self-esteem group, those who repeated the mantra felt worse afterwards. However, people with high self-esteem felt slightly better after repeating the positive self-statement.
Paradoxically, those with low self-esteem were in a better mood when they were allowed to have negative thoughts than when they were asked to focus exclusively on affirmative thoughts.
The researchers suggest that like overly positive praise, unreasonably positive self-statements, such as "I accept myself completely," can provoke contradictory thoughts in individuals with low self-esteem.
Such negative thoughts can then overwhelm the positive thoughts.