Science Reveals Secret To Self-esteem

       Over the past few decades there’s been an emphasis on self-esteem; the importance of developing unwavering self-confidence to be able to deal better with life’s hardships.

       Yet scientific research shows that even if the hardship is brought on by inevitable things such as aging, illness, natural disasters… a lot of us still tend to unleash our inner critic.

      Scientist Paul Gilbert of Kingsway Hospital in the UK, recently suggested that self-compassion, rather than self-criticism – especially in tough times – is more likely to help us bounce back. It may also lead to greater self-esteem, success and happiness in the long run.

     According to Gilbert, there are 3 interacting emotional systems in the brain, each with their own evolutionary purpose and mediating neurotransmitters:

THE DRIVE SYSTEM

       Linked to self-esteem, this system, which is thought to rely heavily on the neurotransmitter dopamine, compels us to pursue resources, mates, skills, status, etc.

THE THREAT PROTECTION SYSTEM

        Fueled in part by neuro-adrenalin, this helps us decide to either fight, flee or submit in the face of a threat. This system may stimulate, or be stimulated by self-criticism.

According to Gilbert, for a lot of us the first two systems dominate. When our self-esteem is threatened, when we have a setback or come across someone we perceive to be better than us, the threat-protection system goes into action. We might attack ourselves, put down the other person, or avoid admitting our own faults.

Thankfully, there’s another system that holds promise for us…

THE MAMMALIAN CARE GIVING SYSTEM

       Running on oxytocin and intrinsic opiates, this system evolved with our need to interact with others and take care of our young. It gives rise to our ability to be compassionate, a skill that when turned inward may guide and comfort the other two systems.

It’s like the ideal parent, best friend, or partner we wish we had!

       When something distressing happens, an illness, a worry, an argument, a setback… the drive system can turn to the system that will give it a proverbial spanking, or the system that will give it a hug.

Recent research suggests the hug leads to better outcomes in the long run.

It seems self-compassion is key when it comes to building up a healthy, strong and lasting self-esteem.

How To Develop Self-compassion And Boost Your Self-esteem

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