Being open to positive remarks from friends and family, even during a rough patch, is important for self-esteem, according to researchers at Waterloo University and Wilfrid Laurier University.
The study, which involved 113 undergraduate students with a mean age of 20.3, indicates that self-esteem is in some way a choice, based on an affinity for the positive.
Overly negative views, they say, spark a chain reaction in which rejection from a lover or potential employer can be interpreted as trail markers along the path to worthlessness.
"People with low self-esteem want their loved ones to see them as they see themselves," says Professor Denise Marigold, from Renison University College at Waterloo and lead author of the study.
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"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."
Participants reported that consoling friends and colleagues with low self-esteem was exhausting and frustrating due to their friends' fundamental lack of desire for positive reframing.
The research team found that in consoling a friend with low self-esteem, empathy is often the best approach.
This extends to identifying their negative feelings about their predicament as appropriate.
"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," says Professor Marigold.
Additionally, participants reported that trying to cheer up a friend with one such dark side often made them feel worse about themselves, suggesting that low self-esteem is contagious.
Fortunately, there is good news, for if the somber study didn't have a sunny flipside, then self-esteem would be a rare commodity.
Being open to positive reframing and allowing friends and family to cheer you up can greatly enhance self-esteem.
The findings were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.