Does reassuring yourself work?

For those who need it the least, yes.

People with high self-esteem feel better when they reassure themselves. Those with low self-esteem feel worse.

Positive self-statements are widely believed to boost mood and self-esteem, yet their effectiveness has not been demonstrated. We examined the contrary prediction that positive self-statements can be ineffective or even harmful. A survey study confirmed that people often use positive self-statements and believe them to be effective. Two experiments showed that among participants with low self-esteem, those who repeated a positive self-statement (“I’m a lovable person”) or who focused on how that statement was true felt worse than those who did not repeat the statement or who focused on how it was both true and not true. Among participants with high self-esteem, those who repeated the statement or focused on how it was true felt better than those who did not, but to a limited degree. Repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, but backfire for the very people who “need” them the most.

Source: “Positive self-statements: power for some, peril for others.” from Psychol Sci. 2009 Jul;20(7):860-6. Epub 2009 May 21.

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