Despite what all those self-help books say, repeating positive statements apparently does not help people with low self-esteem feel better about themselves. In fact, it tends to make them feel worse, according to new research.
Joanne Wood of the University of Waterloo in Ontario and two colleagues conducted experiments in which they asked students to repeat statements to themselves such as "I am a lovable person" -- then measured how it affected their mood.
"From at least as far back as Norman Vincent Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking" (1952), the media have advocated saying favorable things to oneself," the researchers wrote in a recent issue of the journal Psychological Science. "At this moment, thousands of people across North America are probably silently repeating positive statements to themselves."
But in one of their studies involving 32 male and 36 female psychology students, the researchers found that repeating the phrase did not improve the mood of those who had low self-esteem, as measured by a standard test. They actually ended up feeling worse, and the gap between those with high and low self-esteem widened. [emph. added]
Education in Korea vs. the US: does "self-esteem" backfire?