When you get a cut on your finger, you know exactly how to treat it. You clean the wound, apply Neosporin, and wrap a band-aid around your finger. Easy. However, when it comes to any psychological injury, things are not so simple. We do not own medicine cabinets that have ready-to-use emotion treating ointments at our disposal. Fortunately, there are things we can do to receive emotional-aid and Guy Winch, a licensed psychologist and author, discusses ways to treat the psychological injuries we face in our daily lives.
One of the most common psychological injuries we face is rejection. Rejection usually leads to a direct blow to the way we feel about self-worth. For example, if we fail a test, we may begin to think that we are not smart enough. If we get turned down after asking someone out, we may start to question our looks and personality. So in order to ease the impact of rejection, we must find a way to revive our self-worth.
There are several methods people resort to in an effort to restore self-worth, and one of them is reciting positive affirmations. Positive affirmations include statements such as, “I am a smart and strong person.” However, through Guy’s study and research, he determined that positive affirmations do not actually work. In fact, Guy says,
People whose self-esteem is feeling low, actually end up feeling worse when they use positive affirmations.
How can that be? Guy says the reason people feel worse after using positive affirmations is persuasion theory. Persuasion theory suggests that we accept statements that fall within our belief system and reject statements that fall outside our belief system. Positive affirmations usually fall outside our belief system and sometimes our brains are swayed into thinking the opposite of the statements we recite. So do we just let rejection take its toll?
No, Guy says self affirmations are the best way to combat feelings of low self-worth. Self affirmations are statements you generate about yourself that fall within your belief system. Guy advises to make a list of at least five qualities that you possess and believe are valuable. If you got turned down by your crush, examples of some statements include, “I’m loyal. I’m emotionally available. I’m open to all kinds of fun.” Your list can include any sort of qualities, and once you complete the list, Guy says to write a 1-2 paragraph essay detailing one of the qualities. Guy emphasizes that the essay should address why the quality is important, why you value it, why other people value it, how you’ve expressed it in the past, how it impacted people, and how you might express it in the future.
Often times when people perform this exercise, they skip the essay and simply make mental notes. Guy says that defeats the purpose since writing the essay allows your brain to think, process, and absorb. So the next time you doubt your self-worth, grab a pencil and piece of paper, and get ready to write a list and an essay.