Supporting One’s Own Autonomy May Be More Important Than Feeling Supported by Others
According to self-determination theory and research, authorities should support subordinates’ autonomy to maximize subordinates’ well-being and performance. The current studies examine the novel effects of supporting one’s own autonomy, via one’s self-talk. In cross-sectional Study 1, rated self-supportiveness predicted subjective well-being to a greater extent than rated supportiveness of authorities in one’s life. In longitudinal Study 2, initial self-supportiveness predicted boosted well-being after hiking the Pacific crest trail (Study 2a) and across six weeks of a college semester (Study 2b) more strongly than the positive effects of feeling supported by authorities or the negative effects of feeling controlled by authorities or by oneself. In Study 3, experimentally manipulating self-support (compared to self-control) in a “problem class” scenario predicted higher expected enjoyment and less distress. However, we also predicted and found a matching effect, such that those with a higher self-control orientation expected the self-controlling strategy to lead to greater class success and better emotional tone. Overall, results provide a new type of support for the idea that people should try to be friends with themselves, rather than harsh taskmasters.