Washington: Having aspirations and desire might help us keep going and lead our lives in a meaningful way, but they can also cause psychological distress when the same hopes are left unfulfilled, recent findings suggest.
The latest study suggests that it's not failing to make progress toward our 'ideal-self' that is problematic but rather the tendency to focus on that lack of progress in a negative way that leads to psychological distress.
In other words, it pays to be kind to you, researchers associated with the study, published in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences, suggested. The study, led by Associate Professor Joanne Dickson from ECU's School of Arts and Humanities, explored whether 'ideal-self' and 'actual-self' discrepancies were associated with depressive and anxious symptoms.
It also considered whether 'rumination' or excessive negative thinking, played a role in these relationships. Professor Dickson said there are two key 'self-guides' that typically motivate us and provide standards for self-evaluation: the 'ideal-self' and the 'ought-self'.
Findings were published in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences. "The 'ideal-self' is the person we ideally want to be - our hopes and aspirations. The 'ought self' is who we believe we ought to be - our duties, obligations, and responsibilities," she asserted.
The researchers explained that the findings showed that perceiving one's hopes and wishes as unfulfilled and the loss of desired positive outcomes increases emotional vulnerability and psychological distress.
"It's not failing to make progress toward our 'ideal-self' that is necessarily problematic but rather the tendency to repetitively think about this lack of progress that represents a significant vulnerability that, in turn, leads to increased psychological distress," Dickson said.
The findings suggest that self-guides as standards that we aspire, are beneficial in giving a sense of purpose and direction in life and promoting wellbeing, even if we don't always reach them, but turning the focus toward negative self-evaluation and self-criticism is counter-productive.