It was the 1970s and adults were looking for a way to raise confident, go-getter children, ones who would celebrate the person they were to become.
And so parents and teachers started showering them with praise, creating a pop movement of self-esteem that played up their worth. Up those youngsters grew, with grand aspirations of becoming celebrities, astronauts — anything they wanted to be.
And then out came the beating sticks.
Children of the self-esteem movement — their identities shaped by I Am Special songs and “Princess” t-shirts — have become entitled, confused and self-critical youth and adults, raised to believe they can do anything and frustrated, sometimes devastated, when they can’t, experts say. The phenomenon seems at odds with the very definition of self-esteem: feeling good about yourself.
Now, decades since the praise began, psychologists and researchers say they’ve found a way to ease the mental self-battery that has become prominent in North American culture.
A new wave of research on self-compassion — the ability to treat yourself the way you’d treat a friend or a loved one — has been creeping into the mainstream, aiming to rescue people from the depths of narcissism and unreasonable standards they will never meet.
Borrowing principles from Buddhism and mindfulness, the practice demands people be kinder to themselves instead of sizing themselves up against others and beating themselves down.
Kristin Neff, a professor of human development…