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Those With Low Self-Esteem May Not Want To Be Cheered Up

Those With Low Self-Esteem May Not Want To Be Cheered Up

New research suggests that cheering up a friend because they have low self-esteem may not be the best strategy.

Investigators found that people with low self-esteem may have a negative view of themselves and do not want to receive positive validations. Indeed, they often construe critical feedback, romantic rejections, or unsuccessful job applications as evidence of their general unworthiness.

And they likely don’t want you to try to boost their spirits.

“People with low self-esteem want their loved ones to see them as they see themselves. As such, they are often resistant to their friends’ reminders of how positively they see them and reject what we call positive reframing: expressions of optimism and encouragement for bettering their situation,” said Denise Marigold, Ph.D., lead author of the study.

These individuals usually prefer negative validation, which conveys that the feelings, actions, or responses of the recipient are normal, reasonable, and appropriate to the situation.

So a friend could express understanding about the predicament or for the difficulty of a situation, and suggest that expressing negative emotions is appropriate and understandable.

As published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found no evidence that positive reframing helps participants with low self-esteem.

And in fact, the people providing support to friends with low self-esteem often felt worse about themselves when they attempted to cheer up their friend. Some study participants indicated that supporting friends with low self-esteem could be frustrating and tiring.

The researchers found that when these support providers used positive reframing instead of negative validation in these situations, they often believed the interaction went poorly, perhaps because the friends with low self-esteem were not receptive and the efforts didn’t work.

“If your attempt to point out the silver lining is met with a sullen reminder of the prevailing dark cloud, you might do best to just acknowledge the dark cloud and sympathize,” said Marigold.

Source: University of Waterloo

Giving support photo by shutterstock.

Those With Low Self-Esteem May Not Want To Be Cheered Up

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Those With Low Self-Esteem May Not Want To Be Cheered Up. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 17, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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