so this week in time magazine there's an itty bitty article about a study done in canada. i don't know about the validity of the study (i mean, come on--it's canada) but the picture they used really caught my attention. it's a stack of books with titles such as "embrace your failure," "you're fine: 10 steps to avoid total collapse," "the seven habits of losers like you," "you can't do it: so don't even try," "building toward average! how you can keep muddling on," and my personal favorite "sleep through life: it doesn't matter anyway."
anyway, basically the study has found that "trying to get people to think more positively can actually have the opposite effect: it can simply highlight how unhappy they are" (time magazine, finding your inner loser by john cloud). at the end of the article it become apparent that this story is about a scientific paper, which in my mind cannot possibly be much longer than the six paragraphs in this article, but in reality is probably longer than war and peace. we're told that in this scientific paper these canadian psychologists/"scientists" cite a 1990 experiment done by some people out at princeton (most likely an attempt to give validity to their ridiculously drawn conclusion). this 1990 study had a bunch of people (read: poor college students) write an essay arguing that no money should be given to (poor helpless) disabled people. later these people were "praised for their compassion," which made them feel worse (read: GUILTY).
um...duh. when you do something you feel is wrong and someone tells you how great you are for doing the opposite...you feel guilty. obviously. the fact that they had to do a study to figure this out is beyond my comprehension.
but i digress. that is the 1990 study. the one that was just published that we're talking about right now was published in psychological science, a journal i've never heard of but who i suspect only published this study because it's argumentative, or at least just different. why, you may ask, am i being so hard on this study? well, remember earlier when i said that i didn't know the validity of this study? yeah, i lied. you see, in this study college students had to write their thoughts and feelings for four minutes. half of the students had to tell themselves "i am lovable" when a bell rang every fifteen seconds. the other half just wrote their thoughts and feelings. the students who had low self-esteem actually felt worse after telling themselves that they were lovable. one of the problems i see with this study is that only--count it--68 students were studied. sixty eight. a study conducted by people at two different canadian colleges and published in a journal that i could have done in my own basement. for free. in like two days.
the other problem is that if a person ALREADY has low self-esteem then the person telling them they are lovable doesn't actually believe that it's true. i see no evidence that i should stop telling people i hang out with who are feeling low how great they are. because I believe it's true. hello-i'm hanging out with you aren't i? (why do more people not see this as the compliment that it is?) anyway, my point is SINCERITY. i think most people can sense it. and we don't learn anything about the people with high self-esteem who told themselves they were lovable. my guess? their self-esteem went up.
i believe that if a person hears something enough times they will believe it. even if it's not sincere. that's how people get low self-esteem in the fist place. they keep telling themselves how much they suck, and after awhile, they start to believe it. brain washing. however, you can use this technique to your advantage. if you tell yourself something positive enough times...you will inevitably come to believe it's true. i've done this tons of times, and i can attest that it really does work. how else could i think i'm as cool as i am? so QUIT telling yourself how ugly/fat/stupid/worthless you are or soon you'll have no choice but to believe it. and START telling yourself how great you are. how beautiful you are. how smart and thin you are. and how much i like you! because i do! sincerely. otherwise we wouldn't be friends. duh.