Negative reinforcement


When I was a kid, I had low self-esteem and low self-confidence. My dad noticed, and especially noticed that these problems manifested physically as slumped shoulders.

He decided to help. So every time he saw me with my shoulders down, he’d tell me to put my shoulders back. His words said “Be more confident!” but as time went on, his increasingly loud and frustrated tone said “I can’t believe you’re not getting this.” Mysteriously, yelling at me about it helped neither my posture nor my confidence, but he kept on trying.

Many of us, even as adults, have habits which are the direct equivalent of yelling at ourselves until we behave correctly. Negative reinforcement, negative self-talk, agreements with yourself to punish yourself for behaving incorrectly. Have you ever done any of these? If you’re getting good results, I guess keep going, but that kind of negativity has a cost. Positive reinforcement may or may not be less effective, but it pays dividents in peace of mind.