Study Shows The Negative Side To Positive Self-Statements In Self-Help Books


Universities operate as entities of highest standards and the public accepts a great deal of what stated with origins of such background as definitive.  I think whoever made the following study needs to do a great deal more than the little that got a paper published.  The practice of self-affirmations is standard procedure in some industries such as sales and management for the development of ordinary individuals into solid and dependable professionals.  The demands of the professionals environment make the behavior of an undisciplined mind unacceptable and contrary to the practices leading to success in business.  I have used maybe 500 affirmation statements and thoroughly absorbed them into my subconscious.  The practice requires the absorption to take place over a period of no less than 30 days (used to be 21 days by some standards but now 30 is accepted) and the statements begin to function independently afterwards.  The practice has significant consequences in overall productivity of an individual and is a directed training.  Any business person who is solid and active in business from middle level to above has developed a professional mind.  One of the purposes of the professional graduate programs is to teach the students such thinking.  Medical school teaches not only medicine but also how to act and function as a doctor.  Law school teaches not only law but also how to act and function as a doctor.  Business school is no different.  Many people especially in the sales field have career paths outside of the traditional training and receive limited training otherwise.  Affirmations are common practice in such avenues and work great for the established proofessional upgrading to higher levels.  The real use of the techniques is not for mood therapy but improving the subconscious mind for serious performance.  Oversimplifying the process to fit any ordinary person obviously can make for multitude of problems.  The process is designed to work properly by utilizing a great number of statements.  Using one or a handful of verses from the bible as self-affirmations will not make one a Christian nor make for a Christian mindset.  A great many select verses has to be meditated on for reasonable time to change the subconscious mind into operating EFFECTIVELY otherwise.  Oversimplification is the problem and not the process of self-affirmation.


Main Category: Psychology / Psychiatry

Article Date: 04 Jul 2009 – 0:00 PDT
In times of doubt and uncertainty, many Americans turn to self-help books in search of encouragement, guidance and self-affirmation. The positive self-statements suggested in these books, such as "I am a lovable person" or "I will succeed," are designed to lift a person's low self-esteem and push them into positive action. According to a recent study inPsychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, however, these statements can actually have the opposite effect. 

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. 

The researchers asked participants with low self-esteem and high self-esteem to repeat the self-help book phrase "I am a lovable person." The psychologists then measured the participants' moods and their momentary feelings about themselves. As it turned out, 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. They found that, paradoxically, low self-esteem participants' moods 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," can 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. 

As 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." 

Katie Kline 
Association for Psychological Science 


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