Positive self-statements, or positive affirmations, are generally thought to boost morale, mood, and self-esteem. But, despite widespread and uncritical acceptance that they can act like a nostrum, psychological research has not shown that affirmations work.

On the contrary, studies show that positive self-statements can be ineffective or even damaging. If you are someone who generally feels good about yourself, then repeating an uplifting mantra can work for you. If, on the other hand, you suffer from what is popularly known as ‘low self-esteem’ it can make you feel worse.

Positive self-talk that reflects one’s traits and qualities is useful and can help build morale and self-image, but a generalised aspirational statement like “I am a truly wonderful and loveable person”, can backfire and harm the very people who need them the most.

Some people can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but for those not gifted with purse-making skills, a sow’s ear remains a sow’s ear.