Can positive self-talk increase self-esteem?

Brooke Randolph
Marriage & Family Therapy
New research suggests that the common prescriptive of positive self-talk may not be positive for all people, after all; in fact, it might even be dangerous to some. The people most in need of encouragement and self-coaching are those with low self-esteem; however, such positive affirmations may be outside the realm of what they find to be believable. Thus, these ideas can be immediately dismissed or the individual may immediately internally contradict such statements. If you found Stuart Smalley to be ridiculous, you will have a hard time believing yourself saying such things.

This research utilized Rosenberg's Self-Esteem Scale to divide participants into a high-esteem and a low-esteem group. Participants were then asked to write down any thoughts and feelings they had during a four-minute period; every fifteen minutes throughout this period, a doorbell would ring prompting half of each group (high-esteem and low-esteem) to tell themselves "I am a lovable person."

After this exercise, participants completed two questionnaires designed to assess mood and two questionnaires designed to assess current self-esteem. The researchers discovered that the positive statements increased the differences between the two groups; those with high self-esteem already felt better about themselves while those with low self-esteem felt worse after repeating a validation of their lovability.

Positive self-talk seems to only be helpful if you already believe what you are saying to yourself. If you are convincing yourself rather than reminding yourself, you are likely to internally contradict these statements and actually convince yourself that these statements are not true.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.