In recent years we have witnessed a proliferation of writing on "positive psychology" that focuses on variables such as optimism, personal control, self-esteem, and personal striving. At the same time, much of recent pop psychology has emphasized the importance of overcoming different forms of self-criticism, including poor self-esteem and perfectionism. These positive or negative variables clearly influence the quality of our lives. But is self-criticism always a bad thing, and is self-enhancement really so unequivocally good? What are the costs and benefits associated with each?

In Self-Criticism and Self-Enhancement: Theory, Research, and Clinical Implications, editor Edward C. Chang has enlisted over 25 distinguished psychologists and scholars who present the pros and cons of regarding self-criticism or self-enhancement as either "good" or "bad." Collectively, they illustrate the benefits of evaluating these concepts more complexly to demonstrate how negative and positive psychological variables may function as a virtue in one situation and as a vice in another situation. Drawing on the works of both philosophers and researchers, the contributors search for a deeper and broader understanding of these fundamental psychological concepts, and they evaluate their effect on individuals and the larger society.

Table of Contents


—Christopher Peterson


  1. Introduction to Self-Criticism and Self-Enhancement: Views From Ancient Greece to the Modern World
    —Edward C. Chang

I. Self-Enhancement as Good, Self-Criticism as Bad

  1. On the Psychological Benefits of Self-Enhancement
    —Margaret A. Marshall and Jonathon D. Brown
  2. On the Physical Health Benefits of Self-Enhancement
    —Suzanne C. Segerstrom and Abbey R. Roach
  3. On the Psychological Hazards of Self-Criticism
    — Christian Holle and Rick Ingram
  4. On Self-Criticism as Interpersonally Maladaptive
    —Jill M. Holm-Denoma, Ainhoa Otamendi, and Thomas E. Joiner Jr.

II. Self-Criticism as Good, Self-Enhancement as Bad

  1. Defensive Pessimism as a Positive Self-Critical Tool
    —Julie K. Norem
  2. The Role of Self-Criticism in Self-Improvement and Face Maintenance Among Japanese
    —Takeshi Hamamura and Steven J. Heine
  3. On the Psychological Costs of Self-Enhancement
    —C. Randall Colvin and Robert Griffo
  4. On the Physical Health Costs of Self-Enhancement
    —William M. P. Klein and Katrina L. Cooper

III. Self-Criticism and Self-Enhancement as Both Good and Bad

  1. A Functional Approach to Explaining Fluctuations in Future Outlooks: From Self-Enhancement to Self-Criticism
    —James A. Shepperd, Patrick J. Carroll, and Kate Sweeny
  2. On When Self-Enhancement and Self-Criticism Function Adaptively and Maladaptively
    —Constantine Sedikides and Michelle Luke

IV. Clinical Implications of Self-Enhancement and Self-Criticism

  1. On Promoting Adaptive Self-Enhancement in Psychotherapy
    —James L. Pretzer
  2. On Promoting Adaptive Self-Criticism in Psychotherapy
    — Raymond M. Bergner
  3. Self-Criticism and Self-Enhancement: From Complexities of the Present to a Complex Future
    —Edward C. Chang, Rita Chang, Lawrence J. Sanna, and Allison M. Kade

Author Index

Subject Index

About the Editor