As you regular readers are sure to know, one of my published books is about self-esteem… Lots of individuals I work with come to see me to help with confidence and self-esteem related issues and I really want to share with you some fascinating new theory and work that relates to a very different notion than you usually get in the field of self-esteem enhancement…

Have a think about the people you give the most thought to… Unusual idea? Who do you think about? Do you know what affect thinking about these people has on the way you perceive your self? This is the topic of todays blog entry and it is incredibly fascinating…

According to recent research, we tend to rate ourselves differently depending on who we have just been thinking about. In this intriguing piece of research, the findings suggest that people could benefit from being more aware of the influences the mere thought of others can have.

I think that we all had an inkling if this at least already… And the notion does (albeit in different guises) exist in many forms of personal development.

Therefore, if we have just been thinking of a parent we rate ourselves as more submissive and less pro-active than if we’ve been thinking about a friend or current or ex-lover… Hmmm, thought provoking, eh?

The article highlights that:

From mother to best friend, carer or lover, we play many roles in life. How we see ourselves varies dramatically depending on which of these roles we’re in and who we’re interacting with. Now Barry Schlenker and colleagues have taken this idea further, showing that the mere thought of different people significantly impacts the way we perceive ourselves, even influencing our scores on a personality test.

Dozens of female university students were led to believe they were participating in an investigation into the effect of visualisation on heart rate, with the appropriate medical paraphernalia in place to make the story more convincing.

The students were asked to visualise a range of fairly mundane items or experiences and then at the end they were asked to visualise in detail either one of their parents, a recent romantic partner, or a friend. Afterwards they completed a range of personality and self-esteem tests. Post-experimental debriefing confirmed they hadn’t guessed the true purpose of the study.

Students who visualised a parent subsequently rated themselves as less sensual, adventurous, dominant, extraverted and industrious, than did students asked to visualise a friend or romantic partner, consistent with the idea that people revert to a more submissive “child role” with their parents.

A second study revealed some interesting interactions between self-esteem and the effect of visualising different people. Low self-esteem female students who visualised a romantic partner subsequently rated themselves as less sensuous, relaxed and physically attractive, than did students with high self-esteem (however no such difference emerged after visualising a same-sex friend). Meanwhile imagining a same-sex friend led low self-esteem, but not high self-esteem, students to subsequently rate themselves as less socially dominant.

The researchers concluded that people could benefit from being more aware of the influences the mere thought of others can have. “If people recognise that imagined audiences could influence their thoughts, feelings, and actions, thereby perpetuating patterns that exist in specific relationships and possibly carrying over to new relationships, they can try to circumvent any undesirable effects through a conscious override.” In other words, when it comes to seeing yourself in the best possible light for a given situation, mind who you think of.

So this gets me thinking, now that we know about these things we can actually start to use this understanding… I mean, NLPers have been modelling for years in a conscious way… This research implies that if we simply think of the indivdual, it affects the way we perceive ourselves… This is a deeper notion altogether, isn’t it?  

I can remember watching London marathon one Sunday morning whilst pounding out some miles on my own running machine, internally cheering Paula Radcliffe on and being in we of how fast she runs and that at the time, no-one had ever run a marathon faster than she was doing!

As I focused on my water bottle and looked down at my own pace and distance, I realised I had finished my scheduled run and done an extra 3 miles while thinking about her… This happened well beyond my conscious awareness until I had to consciously focus on something else… I wonder What impact it would have had, if I had been watching a programme about one of the fine elderly care homes in Bournemouth? Hahahaha…

So today, maybe consider asking yourself this: Who dominates your thoughts? Do they impact upon how you perceive yourself?

Have a fabulous weekend, I am running a fully booked self-hypnosis seminar here on the sea front…I plan on spending much time today thinking about Einstein and Bill Gates and ending my fascination about the Kray gangsters… 😉