Lack of self-confidence and self-esteem are, as we all know intuitively and as has been amply confirmed by scientific studies, mostly a consequence of trauma, deprivation and/or lack of adequate support in early development. It therefore seemed logical to believe that the antidote would be to cultivate self-esteem.
It was “the” trend over the last twenty years, and even before.
Unfortunately the results were not very encouraging.
Not only we began to be too afraid to “hurt” others, which often meant that it became “forbidden to forbid”, but we also began to avoid more often to give answers that might “frustrate” the other, etc. Such an overprotective trend tends to create problems in establishing and maintaining the necessary limits.
We also have found that this culture of self-esteem has not really “cured” older injuries, but has mostly hidden them a bit better. Which can augment tendencies to struggle with ourselves as well as fear of failure. This would also explain the observation that the cultivation of self-esteem often fuels narcissism…
The good news is that researchers like Kristine Neff have not only pointed to this failure, but have also established that self-compassion provides what was sought by cultivating self-esteem (especially : greater acceptance of self and others, as well as a greater ability to self-soothe during and after painful situations), without the observed negative side-effects of promoting self-esteem.
It is relevant to mention also that self-compassion activates oxytocin. Oxytocin is, a little too simplistically, often called “the love hormone” (as it is very important in the relationship between mother and infant, in tender and sexual relationships, in the confidence that we have in others and thus in the ease that one feels while we communicate with other people). Oxytocin has a soothing and beneficial, you could say “warm” anti-stress effect .
Recent studies suggest that the administration of oxytocin reduces social anxiety. But as the administration of other medications has shown, external interventions can destabilize the body. This seems less so when we know how to activate neuro-messengers of the body itself. For example by cultivating self-compassion …
Another problem with the external oxytocin administration is that it facilitates our proximity to those who are close to us, yes, but unfortunately also risks fueling unfriendly feelings towards those who are not part of “our group”. Something which makes sense from the perspective of evolutionary science, where such “ingroup – outgroup” phenomena have been described in detail. The consequence may be that this alleged “neurotransmitter of love” also fuels xenophobic attitudes… With the cultivation of self-compasion this is not the case, rather the opposite: self-compassion facilitates compassion for others , human beings like us, each of us with our strengths and weaknesses.
The development of such self-compassion, therefore, is a central theme in my approaches. This also explains why, when using the tools of self-massage (while facing painful or traumatic memories), I believe it matters less to find the exact “point” (as for instance the socalled “acupuncture points » used in eg EFT) and stimulate these in a“technically correct” way, and more to touch such « points » with an attitude of self-compassion. In other words, it is usually more beneficial to touch in a way that may be “technically wrong” but do so with an attitude of self-compassion, than to mechanically apply techniques of touching “the exact point” – « exact » according to theories that are, moreover, controversial …
A question, that often emerges when the subject of self-compassion is addressed, is : “Won’t thist make me too soft ?” (or “too sensitive” or “too lazy”)?
In fact, the scientific evidence shows the opposite: self-compassion allows us to become more courageous (since the tendency to avoid difficult situations, in order to avoid painful experiences, decreases), autonomous (the better we can heal ourselves, the less dependent we are of the care of others), and strengthens the motivation to act consistently with our own values.