Imagine a friend who’s having a hard time at work. His boss is always on his case, he can’t seem to do anything right and he’s thoroughly fed up. Or, if she runs her own business, she may be worried that she doesn’t have enough customers, or is working too hard and neglecting her family. What would you say and do? You would pour them a coffee or a glass of wine, give them a hug, listen to them, and maybe even offer some advice. You would also tell them they’re wonderful. Sound familiar?
Now, imagine the friend is you. What would you say to yourself? I bet it’s not that you’re wonderful. It’s probably that you’re useless, inexperienced, too gobby, or too shy; that you bring it on yourself because you’re, well, you. If you were just a better whatever, worked harder, weighed less, did the exact opposite of what you usually do, became more like some ridiculous ideal then you would be more successful and generally a better person. Does that sound familiar?
It’s a sad fact that we treat ourselves much less kindly than we would treat a friend in a similar situation. Empathy and compassion go straight out of the window when we’re evaluating ourselves and critiquing our own performance. This not only makes us feel like crap at the time but also has a significant and long-lasting impact on our confidence. The brain takes in messages wherever they come from and, as we’re primed for negativity (so we can avoid danger), those repeated messages of incompetence, inadequacy and failure become embedded in our thinking and reflected in our patterns of behaviour. Who wants that?
Instead of beating yourself up, why not try developing self-compassion. This is not self-indulgence or self-pity, rather it is acknowledging that nobody is perfect, that things can and do go wrong and that setbacks can cause us to be unhappy. All of that is OK, it’s normal. Bad stuff happens to all of us, we all make mistakes, even those who seem to be perfect. E
Like anything, self-compassion takes practice and you’re overcoming years of habit so stick with it. Here are my tips for getting started on being as kind to yourself as you would be to others:
- Accept that nobody is perfect. That superhuman being you admire so much has plenty of faults and gets things wrong just as much as you do.
- Pay attention to what you tell yourself about yourself. How helpful is it? Is it even true? (Hint: it probably isn’t!).
- Find a way to quieten down the critical voice whenever it starts up in your head. Sometimes just noticing it is enough but I also argue with mine using logic or humour, whichever feels right at the time. It takes just a few seconds to shut it up.
- Try thinking about the situation in a different, more helpful way.
- Focus on developing your resilience (see my post on how to bounce back when things go wrong) so that you’re able to keep setbacks in perspective and recover more quickly.
Remember, being as kind to yourself as you would be to other people will help you to be happier, less stressed and much more confident. You wouldn’t beat up a friend, so please stop doing it to yourself. Like anything, self-compassion takes practice and you’re overcoming years of habit so stick with it.
If you’re interested in working on your self-compassion and self-confidence give me a call on 01235 861 311, or book a slot in my diary for a quick chat at this link: https://calendly.com/jackiefitzgerald/15min