I could have told you that

You’ve got to keep telling yourself: “I am a lovable person; I will succeed.”

Or, um, not:

Positive self-statements make people who are already down on themselves feel worse rather than better, according to [a] study conducted by psychologists Joanne Wood and John Lee of the University of Waterloo and Elaine Perunovic of the University of New Brunswick.

Apparently spouting that sort of bilge causes internal conflict:

“I think that what happens is that when a low self-esteem person repeats positive thoughts, they probably have contradictory thoughts,” Dr Wood told Agence France-Presse.

“So, if they’re saying ‘I’m a lovable person,’ they might be thinking, ‘Well, I’m not always lovable’ or ‘I’m not lovable in this way,’ and these contradictory thoughts may overwhelm the positive thoughts,” she said.

Norman Vincent Peale was not available for comment, though I suspect he would have found the idea depressing.


  1. Lisa Paul »

    4 July 2009 · 10:12 am

    In the words of Stuart Smalley, new Senator from Minnesota, keep saying “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me.”

  2. fillyjonk »

    4 July 2009 · 10:27 am

    Interesting. And yes, it’s something I’ve noticed. I’ve caught myself, while doing the positive self-talk thing, saying to myself, “Oh, don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining!”

    I think the solution is to have people around you who can do the positive self-talk. Sadly, I am more likely to believe it from another person than I am from myself.

  3. McGehee »

    4 July 2009 · 1:15 pm

    For myself, I have never really seen the logic behind self-affirmations anyway. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and the smart thing is to play to your strengths as much as possible — that’s not a “tell yourself” thing though, it’s a “just do it” thing.

    But you can’t always play to your strengths, so knowing what your weaknesses are and knowing how to deal with them is important too. Do most people who use self-affirmation recognize the danger of denying a weakness just when it could be critical to their situation?

    I’m sure Sun Tzu had a few things to say that might apply.

  4. Jeffro »

    4 July 2009 · 2:47 pm

    I’m sure Sun Tzu had a few things to say that might apply.

    Machiavelli as well.

    And Lisa beat me to it, but I was thinking that was one thing I’m sure Norm Coleman wasn’t gonna be sayin.’

  5. fillyjonk »

    5 July 2009 · 2:49 pm

    Actually, on further reflection: acting in a way that is loving towards others – striving to be both a kind person and striving to hew to one’s moral principles – does more for the way a person feels about themselves than any amount of glurgy affirmations.

    Or at least that’s been my experience.

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