I’ve written several posts on the negative aspects of therapy as well as my disdain and frustration with positive self-talk, so I was pretty excited to see this headline: Study Shows The Negative Side To Positive Self-Statements In Self-Help Books
“…individuals with low self-esteem actually felt worse about themselves after repeating positive self-statements.”
“…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.”
Now, I don’t think I’ve ever claimed positive self-talk caused anyone to feel worse… but personally, I’ve never found it helpful as a coping mechanism. The results of the study do make some sense to me, though. Saying completely untrue statements like “I accept myself completely” make me feel further from that as a goal. I start to think, “Will I ever really accept myself completely? What’s wrong with me that I can’t right now? Does it matter if I do? Will I really feel better if I do?”
Also, the article makes a good point with being “allowed to have negative thoughts.” I think that often only positive affirmations are used in treatment in recovery. Things like “Everyone can get better,” “I know that you will beat this, you are such a strong person,” “You have too much potential to struggle with this forever,” “You’re making amazing progress,” etc. are all meant as motivational compliments. Maybe for some people they are… but again, I am backwards and actually feel a little invalidated when I hear how awesome I am doing in recovery. I don’t mind my therapist telling me I’ve made a lot of progress, but I do mind being told that I am doing great when I am feeling crappy. Additionally, sometimes I do worry that I will never get over this or that I will be considered “recovered” once I am 100% ideal body weight, regardless of whether or not I feel mentally/emotionally okay. I’d rather be told that she (therapist) knows that I am struggling and that she is there to support me, and that those fears are understandable becuase people do die from this illness or suffer from it their entire lives, but that I’m in treatment and working for something better than that.
I would love to see if there is a difference between others giving you affirmations vs. you creating them yourselves. I have a letter from an old therapist that says “you are more than enough” as well as a card from a different professional that says, “there are people who care deeply about you.” Both of these are comments that I could tell myself (I am lovable, my family and friends love me, etc.) but they are only significant because I care about and really look up to the people who gave them to me. I guess that’s what makes it so different from positive SELF-talk.