Episode 104: Can Positive Affirmations Improve Your Self Esteem?

MichaelPersonality, Therapy12 Comments

Can positive affirmations help raise your self esteem? People use daily affirmations and money affirmations to help them feel more confident, build their self esteem and bring positive events into their lives. But do they really work? If not, then what will? We explore these questions in this episode of The Psych Files.

We propose that, contrary to popular belief, positive self-affirmations can be useless for some people, even though they may benefit others. They may even backfire, making some people feel worse rather than better. – Wood, et. al, 2009

Affirmations and Self Esteem

  • Wood, J.V., Perunovie, E., & Lee, J.W. (2009). Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others. Psychological Science, 20, 860-865.
  • The idea of latitudes of acceptance was mentioned in this podcast as being one of the reasons why people with low self esteem would probably not be influenced by positive affirmations. This idea is part of what is called Social Judgment Theory.

  • My previous episode on self-esteem which you may find helpful was episode 9, "How Do You Really Raise Self Esteem? The Incredibles vs. American Idol"
  • Another episode that might be of interest is the one in which I discuss positive thinking and positive psychology, including the ideas of Aaron Beck, Martin Seligman and Albert Ellis.
  • I also have an episode on how some people use positive thinking to run away from their feelings

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12 Comments on “Episode 104: Can Positive Affirmations Improve Your Self Esteem?”

  1. Pingback: Evidence for Affiirmations, the Licensing Effect and Gossip | The Psych Files

  2. For many years, I believe that affirmations where the way to change your life. I had seen this on Oprah, and read it in countless articles and books. Of course it never worked for me no matter how many times I wrote down affirmations, repeated affirmations to myself, and even made recordings of affirmations. I just kept doing it and doing it, thinking that if the experts say it works it must work.

    Listening to this podcast made me realize that there is no basis to the claim that repeating affirmations will bring about what you want in life. This was a very freeing idea for me. It help me to stop blaming myself and allowed me to approach challenges in a more realistic and productive way. I feel like I had the wool pulled over my eyes for so long and now I could finally take practical steps to make real changes.

    Thank you for helping to make a positive change in my life.

  3. Michael
    Just a short note to say I was listeneing to this today (often listen to old ones whilst driving) and struck on an idea. I am a mentor to three people at work. In an attempt to make our sessions more challenging I have posted each of them the link to this podcast and asked them to listen and we can discuss at our next meetings. Don’t know if anyone else has tried this. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you have any other recommended episodes you think might fit then I’d be grateful for a steer.

    Keep up the great work


  4. Pingback: Why Do You Hate Psychology? | The Psych Files Podcast

  5. Positive thinking is more powerful than alot of people think. Look at how many times you will create bad moments in your life just because you think a bad thing might happen? Once you take that concept and turn it around and start focusing on all thats good in your life, and what awesome experiences you will create in your life. You will start to notice a change in your mindset and life that is truly amazing.

  6. Thanks Suzie. Very interesting comment. I’ve had some very similar thoughts as yours. Nowadays it is so easy to be exposed to the very best of the best. For example, I don’t know if you watch “So You Think You Can Dance”, but they’re got some of the most incredible dancers on that show who have incredible bodies. It’s tough (at least for me) not to wish that I looked like them and feel a little down about it. But that’s our “flat” world today. You have to stay in touch with your own goals and the realities of our own lives. Glad you’re enjoying the podcast! – Michael

  7. I just wanted to compliment you on a very interesting podcast. I’m new to your site and found this episode quite thought provoking. Recently, I have been pondering the benefit of watching “inspirational type stories.” I, along with many women, eagerly listen to such stories as an abused woman who lived in a hut in Africa, and who now has a Ph.D, is happily married, owns her own business, etc. Many, many stories such as these are, at first, inspirational and quite often, move me to tears. Later though, I have noticed that I berate myself for not accomplishing lofty goals. If I, who started out with so many advantages, have not accomplished newsworthy amounts, I must be a mediocre failure! I then have to remind myself that it is my personal belief that we are all in this world on a personal journey. Success must be self defined to be of real value. See what I mean…your podcast definitely provoked thoughts:) Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  8. Lisa: Interesting. I am open to alternative views. What makes you think this? Do you have some evidence to back up what you say?

  9. I think the research really points out that affirmations don’t tend to work when they’re not used properly. If one is using properly constructed affirmations the right way, there’s a high chance of positive outcomes and the backfire risk is virtually nil.

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