It turns out the Little Engine That Could had it all wrong. Repeating positive statements to yourself doesn’t appear to help people with low self-esteem, according to a new study. Researchers asked students to repeat statements like “I am a lovable person” to themselves, then measured their mood. Those with low self-esteem typically wound up feeling worse, the Washington Post reports.
The results fly in the face of self-help orthodoxy. “From at least as far back as Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking, the media have advocated saying favorable things to oneself,” the researchers wrote. “At this moment thousands of people across North America are probably silently repeating positive statements to themselves.”