Why don’t self-affirmations always work?
Old habits and beliefs die hard.
I am sure that by now, most of you have heard about so-called Self-Affirmations, but some people have asked the question…..Why don’t self-affirmations always work?
You may find useful to read our previous article ‘Self-Affirmations – what are they and how do they work?’.
In short, self-affirmations are reassuring sentences of kindness that help people boost their self-esteem and reinforce positive beliefs which may help them overcome problems in their lives.
These problems are usually negative beliefs about themselves, or other people, such as ‘I am ugly’, ‘I am so dumb’, or ‘no one loves me’. And so, by creating and repeating positive statements, such as ‘I am a smart and beautiful person’, ‘I am worthy of love’, people have been found to improve their self-confidence, mood, and even attention and memory! However, this is not the case for everyone.
Self-affirmations were proved to change the current mindset when properly practiced, but they also have been found to cause even more damage. What may be the reason behind this? Why does this work for some, while for others, it does not?
The answer comes in multiple explanations.
First, the reason behind this may be that the thing that we are trying to believe in is far from our true belief. The theory of the ‘latitude of acceptance’ (Sherif & Hovland, 1961) states that if we are trying to believe in something that is too different from our beliefs and attitudes, we are more likely to reject this idea.
Therefore, when someone is doubting themselves and perhaps also experiences a lot of anxious and depressed feelings, they may not identify with the ideal which they are desperately trying to achieve.
Scientists from the University of Waterloo in Canada found that when people who already have poor self-esteem repeated the positive affirmation ‘I am worthy of love’, their feelings did not improve but got far worse.
Their reasoning behind this was that the overly positive statements were simply too much in contrast with the beliefs the participants held. However, there is a possibility that under certain circumstances, moderately positive affirmations may benefit even people with low self-esteem. The logic behind this is that the farther someone is from the reality they try and preach, the subtler the affirmation should be.
This means that instead of saying ‘I am a great friend’, they could try ‘I do the best I can for my friends.
So, we know that self-affirmations do work, but only for people who do not struggle too much. What about the others then? Is there a magical formula for a miraculous healing?
Yes and no. People who experience low moods, anxious feelings, feelings of worthlessness and other negative feelings may benefit the most from visiting a person who could guide them through and help them figure out what it is that clouds their judgement about themselves. What is more, after this, the person can go on and start using self-affirmations moderately and with the help of a professional, help to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.
If you would like to understand more about affirmations or learn how we can help you get to the state where they would help you, please contact My Family Psychologist at 07801 079555, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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