"Positive Affirmations Can Make People Feel Worse. Psych explains."“I’m desirable and worthy of a great husband/wife,” or “I’m a great person and wonderful things are going to happen to me,” are extremely popular, as evidenced by the multitude of books, programs, tapes/downloads, magnets, and calendars that people buy in order to utilize them.

“However, while such affirmations sound great, they have one fatal flaw-they make those who need them most feel worse about themselves rather than better,” says Guy Winch PhD, clinical psychologist and author of the new book, “EMOTIONAL FIRST AID: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejections, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries” .

Why does this happen?

“any of the people who use positive affirmations do so to feel better about themselves and to feel more empowered. But it is exactly their low self-esteem that makes them likely to be resistant to the messages positive affirmations convey. The science of persuasion teaches us that people are likely to reject messages that fall outside their fundamental belief systems. A person whose self-esteem is low, who feels unworthy, unattractive, or unwanted, is likely to unconsciously reject positive affirmations such as “I am worthy,” or “I am great,” because they directly conflict with their basic beliefs about themselves. In other words, the very people who most need affirmation are those least likely to benefit from such messages,” says Winch.

So what can we do?

Fortunately, not all affirmations cause this effect, only generic positive ones. Affirming aspects of ourselves we know to be true is a much more effective and powerful way of increasing our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. It just means we have to put in a little work of our own to come up with them.

Try the following:

1. Make a list of qualities you have that you value in the domain you want to affirm. For example, if you seek affirmation of yourself as a dating/marriage prospect, include items such as, loyal, emotionally available, good listener, caring, sensitive, non-jealous, supportive, kind, interested in shared experiences, good conversationalist, and others you know to be true.

2. Choose one item on the list and write a brief essay about how you manifest this ability and why you feel it is important (a paragraph or two should do).

3. Write a brief essay about each of the attributes on your list-one each day-until you’ve completed the list. Feel free to add items to the list as they occur to you (try to come up with at least 10-15 items).

Affirming aspects of yourself that you know are valuable is a proven way to boost your self-esteem authentically, and to remind yourself of all you have to offer.

*photo by wallm.com