The connection between the hippocampus and self-esteem is very interesting. Your sense of identity is directly connected to this brain structure, your memories and your internal story.
No one knew how important this structure was until four centuries ago. Initially, it was linked to the sense of smell. However, in the early 20th century, Vladímir Béjterev discovered that it was related to memory and our emotional world.
Recently, Tim Keller of the Carnegie Mellon University Department of Psychology in Pittsburgh found that some people have a much larger hippocampus than others.
Taxi drivers, who are experts when it comes to special memories, are a prime example. People who exercise and have a positive attitude and high self-esteem also have a large hippocampus.
The link between the hippocampus and self-esteem
The hippocampus is also connected to a second brain structure: the amygdala. This small limbic structure evokes fear, alertness and danger. If the amygdala is not constantly activated and working properly, the hippocampus is functioning as it should.
We cannot ignore how devastating fear can be. This feeling of fear and helplessness damages our neurochemistry and affects the hippocampus.
Hippocampus, emotions, identity and health
In 2018, the Renmin University of China conducted an interesting study that sought to understand the relationship between the hippocampus and self-esteem.
Although there was already a lot of information about it, researchers wanted to know even more. For this they studied a large part of the population by means of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This went like this:
- All participants were categorized according to the Rosenberg self-esteem scale.
- Their hippocampus was then measured by means of an MRI scan.
- After examining the images, the scientists concluded that people with high self-esteem had a larger hippocampus.
- This was even more evident when people led an active lifestyle and exercised.
Low self-esteem, traumatic memories and the hippocampus
In addition, a neural circuit shows greater connectivity if a person practices the following every day:
- positive self-image
- self confidence
But what happens if one has low self-esteem? Well, it’s important to mention that self-esteem fluctuates considerably. There are times when we are very satisfied with ourselves and also days when we don’t feel so confident at all.
Those fluctuations don’t affect our hippocampus. This structure is only damaged if someone suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and has a chronically low self-esteem. For example, people who have been victims of child abuse.
In these kinds of traumatic situations, the memories that integrate into the hippocampus are negative and painful. The sense of helplessness and negative self-image we experience when we remember activate our amygdala.
So we get scared again and again. This leads to the release of cortisol into our blood, which can damage the hippocampus by shrinking it significantly.
How to optimize the relationship between your hippocampus and self-confidence
Your self-esteem is influenced by your internal story. Thus, having a positive internal story characterized by compassion, affection, and respect will help boost your self-confidence.
The health of your hippocampus depends on your overall well-being. Therefore, you should try to control stress so that it does not affect this important structure.
In addition, you should stay physically active and enjoy physical and mental free time. Start making changes that will improve your well-being. It’s really worth it!