Life is full of vulnerable moments — occasions when we feel off-balance, unsure of ourselves and our abilities — and in these moments we are likely to perform less well than we might. Social psychologists have developed a simple activity, called a values affirmation, that can intervene in such situations to restore our sense of equilibrium. Here’s how it works: Make a list of the values that matter most to you, or for 10 minutes, write in-depth about a value that is central to your life. Perhaps it’s your close relationship with your family, or your skill with a camera or in the kitchen, or your strong religious faith. What matters is that it’s your value, your identity.
In a study published in the journal Psychological Science in 2012, researcher Michael Inzlicht of the University of Toronto and his coauthors found that people who had affirmed their values were more receptive to negative feedback and better able to recognize and correct their own errors. “Self-affirmation produces large effects,” the researchers note. “Even a simple reminder of one’s core values reduces defensiveness against threatening information.”