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The practice of self-affirmation has many devotees. Whether it's a "Hang in There kitten," a note on your mirror, or an encouraging coffee cup, many of us can't help but put some faith in playing cheerleader for ourselves. What research says about self-affirmation is that, rather than merely convincing us we're infallible, it appears this practice does us the greatest good by preventing us from overreacting to bad situations.
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Most people are probably familiar with self-affirmations as short, motivational quotations or phrases someone tells oneself. This is a type of self-affirmation but there are many other kinds. What defines self-affirmation is that it helps you understand your adequacies and protects you from feeling like your self-integrity is threatened by every inconvenience. Examples of self-affirming acts can include updating your Facebook page with a photo you like or shopping for something you want (rather than need). One of the most common self-affirming acts used in research is a writing exercise where people take 10 minutes to explain what is most important to them. People often talk about family, friends, religion, and parts of their personality they value in themselves, such as a good sense of humor.
Done well, studies have suggested that well-timed affirmations can improve academic performance, health, and relationships. It's possible they do this by helping people see the big picture during trying times, instead of getting defensive, shutting down, and missing the opportunity to grow from the situation. If you want to attempt an affirmation for yourself, here are three guidelines to follow, according to an article from the Annual Review of Psychology: be general, make it about being good enough but not superior, and make it say why you're praiseworthy without being cocky.
Read more about self-affirmation:
Stanford University: The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention
Psychology Today: Do Self-Affirmations Work? A Revisit
Association for Psychological Science: Self-Affirmation Enhances Performance, Makes Us Receptive to Our Mistakes