Praising Yourself Into Depression

Depression from inaccurate high self esteem

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Boosting your own self-esteem is generally thought of as a good thing, but apparently it can be too much of a good thing.

People who tell themselves they've done a great job when they really haven't could end up feeling depressed instead. In fact, assessing yourself realistically and accurately, both at highs and lows, leads to the highest self-esteem and lowest depression.

"Be honest with yourself."

Young-Hoon Kim, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania led an experiment on self-assessment with four different groups of young people in the United States and Hong Kong. Across all the groups and studies, those who rated their own performance much higher than it actually was were significantly more likely to feel dejected.

“These findings challenge the popular notion that self-enhancement and providing positive performance feedback to low performers is beneficial to emotional health," said Young-Hoon Kim.

In the first phase, one U.S. group and the Hong Kong students took academic tests and were then asked to rate and compare their own performance with others. Following their self-assessments, researchers used another questionnaire to measure their symptoms of depression.

Another phase involved giving American students feedback that made the high performers think their performance was low, and the low performers think their performance was high. Control groups who received no feedback were also used.

"Instead, our results underscore the emotional benefits of accurate self-assessments and performance feedback.”

The results also supported previous findings on cross-cultural differences, showing Asians to be more humble than Americans. The U.S. students rated their own performances with a higher mean response than the Hong Kong students - 63 percent compared to 49 percent.

The relationship between excessive self-enhancement and depression, however, was consistent in both groups. Two-hundred and ninety five American undergraduates with a mean age of 19, and 2,780 high school students from Hong Kong, participated in the study.

The findings were published in the October 2011 issue of Emotion, a journal of the American Psychological Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 20, 2011
Last Updated:
October 23, 2011