When Self-Help Books Backfire


New research suggests those with low self-esteem may not benefit from self-help babble.

After a string of rough break-ups, it may seem logical (and healthy!) to order the newest "How To (insert helpful adjective) (insert love-like adjective) Better." Or something of that nature. Steve Harvey Advises Ladies To Think Like Men

We've all been there. Lord knows a particularly inspired Oprah can do wonders for the commercial break checkout lines at Barnes and Noble.

However, new research has surfaced that those who truly suffer from low self-esteem may not benefit from the self-help babble so many therapists and licensed this-or-thats swear upon. In fact, it may make it worse. According to a study in Psychological Science, repeating self-helpy phrases like "I am a lovable person" greases up those depressive, psychoanalytical wheels. The person doing the self-talking may think: But am I really a lovable person—I feel silly.

"They found that, 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. The psychologists suggested that, like overly positive praise, unreasonably positive self-statements, such as "I accept myself completely," can provoke contradictory thoughts in individuals with low self-esteem.

Makes sense. Even repeating to yourself: "Yeah. He's just not that into me" can backfire. While the objective may be to learn self-respect, perhaps some just dwell on He Doesn't Like Me. 5 Things I Hate About My Marriage

Good news for those who think they rock, though. The study found that those who have positive self-esteem quite enjoy telling themselves they're wonderful. In fact, positive self-statements only seemed to benefit those who needed them the least.