In talking recently with someone about how to lessen anxiety in conversations about death, wills, estates, family conflicts, and funerals, I mentioned the possibility of self-affirmation. Realizing I had not blogged about the topic in a while, I decided to write this short post.
Self-affirmation is the name given to a method used in psychology studies that involves explicitly affirming values a person holds important in his or her life. For an overview of the method, read "Self-Affirmation and Mortality Salience: Affirming Values Reduces Worldview Defense and Death-Thought Accessibility" (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin). From that article:
[I]n a common self-affirmation procedure, participants choose a value or characteristic they consider very important and write about why it is important to them. Examples of valued domains used in self-affirmation include relationships with family and friends, physical attractiveness, and creativity. Affirming the self by affirming one’s most important values appears to fit the description of a worldview-bolstering procedure. It leads people to select a central part of their worldview and affirm to themselves its meaningfulness and importance.
In previous posts, I have written about the benefits of self-affirmation in improvement of college women's grades in science classes and about benefits in several other activities, too. Research shows its beneficial role in, for example, stress reduction, increase in openness to facing health threats, and reduction in defensiveness to mortality salience (awareness that you are going to die).
Affirming your values, whether in writing or through another process, can be a powerful exercise. If you want to learn more, read the above-mentioned article or my past posts listed below.
- Your values: One way to lessen the stress of conflict
- Another reason to affirm your values every so often? "Simple intervention helps women overcome sexist stereotypes"
- Some benefits of values affirmation, and methods for affirming your values
- Wishing some of your clients were a bit more hypo-egoic? Two practices that might help
- How and why to affirm your values: A pivotal process
- Update your estate plan? How depressing! 7 ways to transform that depression into vital expression