We’ve all been there: casually strolling through the self help section of Barnes & Noble trying not to make eye contact with anybody. But maybe you can save yourself the awkwardness: a Canadian study has found that if a person’s self-esteem is already in the toilet, reciting positive self-help mantras are useless. In fact, they could actually make you feel worse!
The journal Psychological Science asked people with both high and low self-esteem to praise themselves daily, then record the moods and feelings they had before and afterward.
Only the people who had high self-esteem to begin with reported feeling better off after praising themselves. But unfortch, praise did nothing for people low self-esteem. When they said things like, “I am a lovable person” or “I accept myself completely” to themselves, people with low self-esteem actually felt worse afterward, presumably because they didn’t believe these statements were true. Surprise, surprise, self-criticism was actually more comforting: the low self-esteem-ers reported that they felt better when they were encouraged to think negative thoughts about themselves.
The BBC spoke with the spokesman of the British Psychological Society, who agreed that building confidence through counseling is definitely more helpful than telling yourself statements you might not believe. However, it’s interesting that people with low self-esteem felt better when they criticized themselves. Maybe that means people with low self-esteem feel like they’re taking care of themselves better when they are allowed to fret and worry? Maybe because they lack confidence, worrying is assuring to them?
Now I’m curious: do you guys say a daily mantra? If so, what do you say? Tell us in the comments section below. [BBC]