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Abstract

The current research examined how true self-conceptions (who a person believes he or she truly is) influence negative self-relevant emotions in response to shortcomings. In Study 1 (N = 83), an Internet sample of adults completed a measure of authenticity, reflected on a shortcoming or positive life event, and completed state shame and guilt measures. In Study 2 (N = 49), undergraduates focused on true versus other determined self-attributes, received negative performance feedback, and completed state shame and guilt measures. In Study 3 (N = 138), undergraduates focused on self-determined versus other determined self-aspects, reflected on a shortcoming or neutral event, and completed state shame, guilt, and self-esteem measures. In Study 4 (N = 75), undergraduates thought about true self-attributes, an achievement, or an ordinary event; received positive or negative performance feedback; and completed state shame and guilt measures. In Study 1, differences in true self-expression positively predicted shame-free guilt (but not guilt-free shame) following reminders of a shortcoming. Studies 2–4 found that experimental activation of true self-conceptions increased shame-free guilt and generally decreased guilt-free shame in response to negative evaluative experiences. The findings offer novel insights into true self-conceptions by revealing their impact on negative self-conscious emotions.