People with high self-esteem try harder to get rid of negative emotions, research finds.
Whether it is with comedy, music or exercise, people with higher self-esteem prefer to do battle with their bad moods.
In contrast, people with low self-esteem do not have the motivation to overcome a bad mood and tend to accept their sadness.
Dr Jonathon Brown, one of the study’s authors, explained:
“Many people with low self-esteem believe sadness is part of life and that you shouldn’t try to get rid of it, while people with high self-esteem believe in doing something to feel better if they have a negative experience or get in a bad mood.”
The research involved almost 900 people across five different studies.
The results of the key experiment showed that people with low self-esteem were less likely to try and cheer themselves up when they were in a bad mood.
Only 47% of those with low self-esteem chose to watch a comedy video when they were in a bad mood.
This was in comparison to 75% of people with high self-esteem.
Dr Brown said:
“People with low-self esteem feel resignation because they question whether anything will help and say ‘I’m not good at breaking or changing a mood.
They also believe sadness is not something you get rid of and that you learn and grow from sadness.
They feel it is not appropriate to try to change a mood.
These are not people who would necessarily go to the movies or shopping to feel better.”
People with low self-esteem, though, can make a change, said Dr Brown:
“If you have low self-esteem, you should actively try to rise above the sadness and learn that you will feel better if you do not passively accept sadness.
You can get better if you remind yourself to do something.
You may have to kick yourself in the butt to go to a movie because it will require a conscious effort rather than something that comes automatically,”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Heimpel et al., 2002).