Welcome to Chipur! If you’re struggling with a mood or anxiety disorder, you’ve come to a good place. Dig-in, okay? Thank you for stopping-by. Bill

Self-Esteem Help: Give Self-Affirmation a Go

Self-Esteem Help

Self-esteem help? Ways to increase self-esteem? I’m in, Bill. My depression and anxiety have left me feeling pretty poorly about myself. Whatcha’ got for me?

One of Chipur’s missions is to bring you strategies and techniques to help you cope with your depression, anxiety, and bipolarity – and their fallout. I’m thinking self-esteem help and ways to increase self-esteem are right up our alley. You too?

Let’s take a peek at something called Self-Affirmation (minus the psychobabble)…

Self-Esteem Help: What’s Self-Affirmation?

Self-Affirmation (SA) is a psych theory brought to the fore by social psychologist Dr. Claude Steele in the late-1980s.  SA suggests each of us are at-core motivated to sustain, support, and strengthen our perception of something called self-integrity.

Self-integrity? It’s thinking and behaving in a good and moral manner in accordance with the expectations and demands of one’s particular culture. Sustaining a sense of adequacy is a huge part of the equation.

So now that we have SA down, what happens when our self-integrity is somehow threatened or takes a hit?  Well, it’s natural that we’d respond in some manner to restore a measure of self-esteem/self-worth.

However, SA asks us to reach for different arrows in our quiver when a response is called for.

That said, it’s up to us to transition to a different personal arena, as opposed to the one in which we’re experiencing problems. And this new personal arena needs to be one in which we can acknowledge and take advantage of a personal competency – strength.

To that end the self-statement may go something like this: “Okay, I’m being knocked to the ground by this particular issue. Aha, but to restore my self-esteem I’ll respond by turning to a character trait or area of expertise in which I know I’m strong.”

See, it’s these newly created “self-affirmations” that enable us to manage threatening stimuli in a very reasonable and healthy manner – without resorting to the counter-productivity of throwing up defenses. And it all serves to increase open-mindedness and flexibility when dealing with issues that may be difficult for us to accept.

What a huge impact, then, SA can have on overcoming the discomfort of what’s called cognitive dissonance – attempting to juggle two or more conflicting personal ideas, beliefs, values, or emotional reactions.

Simply, SA – a conscious and willful personal intervention – provides a means of enhancing self-management by helping us move away from our traditional habits of reaction.

Self-Esteem Help: Does SA Really Work?

The results of recent research led by Clarkson University’s Dr. Lisa Legault (published in Psychological Science) tell us that SA can indeed minimize anxiety, stress, and the defensive thoughts and behaviors associated with threats to self-integrity.

How does the magic go down?

Well, Dr. Legault and colleagues theorized that since SA makes us more open to threats and distressing feedback, it likely makes us more attentive and emotionally receptive to errors we may make.

To put that connection to the test the team decided to measure a brain response known as error-related negativity (ERN) – a pronounced wave of electrical activity in the brain that occurs within 100 milliseconds (Wow!) of making an error on a task. So they wired up 38 participants in the lab and went to work.

And how ’bout it? The results showed their supposition to be correct. And the bottom-line was SA improved the participant’s task performance.

Dr. Legault’s summary…

“These findings are important because they suggest one of the first ways in which the brain mediates the effects of self-affirmation…Practitioners who are interested in using self-affirmation as an intervention tactic in academic and social programming might be interested to know that the strategy produces measurable neurophysiological effects.”

Let’s Close

Self-Affirmation brings us yet one more tool to overcome the impact of depression, anxiety, and bipolarity upon our self-esteem. Absolutely, it’s about self-esteem help.

Now, I could have presented examples of how to implement SA; however, I’d rather you provide the real-life applications. Would you do so in a comment? Thanks! Bill

Look no further for Chipur articles on the psychology of the mood and anxiety disorders. How ’bout Chipur Feelin’ Better articles?

  • Patricia Miller

    Well, here is a way I’ve used this in my life. First thing is I keep a small journal with nice paper in my purse or computer bag. I also have colored pens because I like to use different colors of ink when I write by hand (esthetics matter). When I am feeling pretty down on myself, I pull out the journal and write some positive self-statements with supporting examples if at all possible. Here is an example: “Patricia is a kind and supportive person who is interested in the best outcomes possible for others. I know this true because she will regularly stop whatever she is doing, even things that she values and on which she places high importance, in order to make time to genuinely help another person. She makes great eye contact with them and will try to work with them to help them find a positive solution.” I keep these comments and read over them. If someone gives me a compliment, I try to write it down in the journal too and use it as one of the “proofs” for a positive statement about myself. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to undo the damage done by others to our self-esteem, but frankly, what else am I going to do with the time? Just keep feeling crummy? That is not my personal preference.

    • Great model and real-life application, Patricia. No doubt about it, it does indeed often take “a lot of work to undo the damage done by others to our self-esteem.” And it follows that those who creatively step-up to the task will reap the benefits of reduced depression, anxiety, etc. The rest? Well, yes – as you put it, they’ll continue to “feel crummy.” Thank you so much for your ongoing contributions to Chipur readers. I’m so glad you’re a frequent visitor and participant…
      Bill