The problem with self-esteem as a measure of self-worth in our modern societies, is that it feeds from the need to feel above average and that it hooks into social comparison. When we are comparing ourselves, we are not happy, content or connected to others.
For example some research shows that bullying is largely driven by to get self esteem. The contingency of self-esteem come from: approval of peers, appearance, money/financial status. As our finances and dress sizes go up and down, our self-esteem goes up and down. It is a real struggle to feel good about ourselves while we are focusing outside of ourselves. Focusing on self-esteem will bring inevitable feelings of inadequacy. Neff’s research shows that focusing on self-compassion has greater benefits for our well-being then focusing on gaining self-esteem.
The three components of self-compassion:
*Self Kindness vs Self Judgement. Treating oneself with care and understanding and actively soothing oneself.
*Common Humanity vs Isolation. Seeing own experience as part of larger human experience not isolating or abnormal. Recognising that life is imperfect, including us.
*Mindfulness vs. Over identification. Allows us to “be” with painful feelings as they are. Avoids extremes of suppressing o running away with painful feelings.
Self- compassion linked to wellbeing (Zessin, Dickhauser & Garbadee, 2015) Reductions in negative mindstates: Anxiety, depression, stress, rumination, thought suppression, perfectionism, shame. Increases in positive mind-states: Life satisfaction, happiness, connectedness, self-confidence, optimism, curiosity, gratitude. Self-compassion leads to well-being by holding negative thoughts and emotions loving, connected, presence.
So what can we do? Where can we start?
The first thing that Kristin suggests is to try to catch our inner speech (the gremlins for some of us) and try to talk to ourselves as we would talk to someone who we love. So imagine, when you are beating yourself up about something, what would you say to your loved one in the same situation? I get my clients to actively ‘bring’ into their mind someone like a child or even a pet 🙂 , let them feel in their bodies how it would feel to talk to them about something that we would find in ourselves unacceptable.
Then imagine that the person you love is actually you, and speak to yourself in the same compassionate manner as you would (hopefully) to your loved ones.
When we experience compassion or self-compassion, the motor cortex gets activated in our brain. We need to do something active, actively self-soothing!!! We can use self-touch, just holding a hand over our heart as we would hold an infant. Drinking something warm and even tasty while observing how the warmth enters into our bodies. Using warm hot water bottles on our tummy or kidney area, this activates our mammalian care-giving system in our brain, so we really feel cared for. Using gentle vocalisation while using our own name (can calm the amygdala, the part of the brain that signals danger) telling ourselves that we are part of common humanity and life is perfectly imperfect as we all are. Or something that fits for you at that moment 🙂
Kristin and Brené calls mindfulness: courageous presence. You can’t have self compassion without mindfulness or courageous presence. So developing a practice around that would be very important.
There are many great and affordable resources out there and, I also run workshops where we learn some techniques and practices in a group setting.
I collected some online resources for you:
Some gems from Kristin at the workshop:
-Dating advice: taking the self-compassion test before meeting the dates for coffee,
more self-compassion = better relationships 🙂
-The care-giving system gets destroyed when there is abuse. So the process goes longer and slower but it is possible.
-You cannot fail in teaching self-compassion :)) because you can just send compassion to the failing 🙂
-‘You’ language helps calming your amygdala down. Using our own name can be calming too.
-Negative emotions tighten our perspectives, to focus on dangers. Self-compassion helps to bring on positive emotions and by that opens the perspective, calms the reptilian brain and brings in more options by using the frontal cortex.
Darwin was misinterpreted , it’s not the survival of the fittest, it is the survival of the most self-compassionate and the most co-operative.
-The role of practice to become a compassionate mess 🙂
-Empathetic resonance actually get us into the space of not being able to give compassion. We want to fix because of our own discomfort. Compassionate breathing can help, breathing compassion in and out.