Your brain on self-compassion and self-esteem

Want to boost your self-esteem? Try a little self-compassion. Research shows that most people are self-critical. Luckily, scientists at Kingsway Hospital in the UK and the University of Texas at Austin have also found that compassion can help counter the negative inner critic inside your head.

Self-esteem influences every aspect of your life, including your career. A lack of self-esteem may keep you from excelling in your role. It’s common for people with low self-esteem to feel as if they are imposters. This often leads to a cycle of self-criticism and decreased motivation.

So, what’s the best way to increase your self-esteem? Based on research published on, self-compassion holds the answer. Scientists in the UK and the US published research suggesting that self-compassion helps you combat self-criticism. They also explain that self-esteem, criticism, and compassion are connected to three distinct emotional systems in the brain. These systems include the drive system, the threat protection system, and the mammalian caregiving system.

The drive system is linked to your self-esteem. It motivates you to accomplish things, such as career or relationship goals. It also relies heavily on dopamine. The threat-protection system relies on adrenalin. It’s also called the fight or flight system. It’s responsible for helping you decide whether to fight, flee, or submit when faced with a threat. Most of us are ruled by the first two systems. If you lack self-esteem, your drive system is low. When presented with a threat, you may choose to flee.

The mammalian caregiving system provides a healthier alternative to the first two systems. It relies on oxytocin and opiates. Scientists believe that the caregiving system evolved out of our need to care for the young. However, the caregiving system can also be used to support your own needs. Based on the information presented by the authors, self-compassion can help fight self-criticism and low self-esteem.

Practicing a little self-compassion can go a long way towards boosting your confidence. However, self-compassion is just one path toward building greater self-esteem and confidence. It’s also important to gain self-acceptance. Accepting that you possess negative and positive qualities allows you to see more clearly. Failing to accept yourself forces you to resist change.

Reframing your old beliefs is another method for gaining self-compassion. It’s also a common NLP technique. Try looking at yourself through someone else’s eyes. Using someone else’s perspective may help you uncover reasons to be more compassionate with yourself.

As pointed out in the article, a lack of self-esteem can leave you feeling as if you are an imposter. As a confidence coach with over 20 years of experience, I’ve worked with thousands of professionals with low self-esteem. If you want to beat imposter syndrome, explore my one-to-one coaching or online courses at


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