Choose self-compassion not self-criticism

I’m not a very kind person. Don’t worry, if we ever meet, I’ll be a little ray of sunshine to encourage, support and motivate you, but recently I’ve been asking myself why this rainbow doesn’t extend to me and I find myself under a dark cloud.


I’m not talking about depression or anxiety, just a general grumpiness around my own day-to-day goings on. This can be work related: “dammit, why didn’t I spot that typo in the email” to general life monotony: “sorry kids, have cereal, I know you want fresh pancakes, but I really cannot be bothered.”   It makes me feel like a loser, that I’m letting everyone down and I am #NotWinningAtLife


To anyone else I would state the obvious. That my clients like working with me and will not care if I make a typo in an email to them, as that’s the kind of brilliant relationship I’ve created with them. The kids will not need therapy for eating convenience food. The dog will not go lame if I don’t take her for a walk three times a day. My accountant won’t think I’m incompetent businesswoman if I put a receipt in the wrong category. My client will not think less of me if my shoes don’t coordinate with my outfit. You’re doing your best, you’re #WinningAtLife.


So why like most people, do I show more compassion to others than I do to myself?


Most people acknowledge the importance of being a good friend, a great colleague, a supportive parent, and it is only when we see ourselves from a third person perspective do we see that this support and encouragement doesn’t extend to the person that maybe needs it the most. The role of a coach is to be that third dimension, sometimes pointing out the obvious and always believing in the potential of an individual to reach their full potential. Every person I have met is more capable than they think they are. Yes, I’m talking to YOU!


To look after our bodies, we get into the habit of going to the gym and/or eating healthily, so what stops us from getting into the habit being the best we can be at work and at home? Could it be the preconceptions that to do so is selfish, lazy or a waste of our time? Or that development is for people who are lacking in some way, and we fear admitting to our mistakes as this will show our vulnerabilities.


At a recent business conference, I was reluctant to put my hand up in the crowded auditorium for fear of judgement. I’m not sure why, I knew what I was talking about. I was disappointed in myself that I doubted myself and annoyed that the judgement of others had got in my way. Depending on my mood I could add that to my list of self-sabotage by admitting to the lack of home cooked meals for my kids, my plethora of excuses for not exercising, my procrastination about filing my hundreds of emails… washing my car…getting my eyes tested… why do I still have a headache?  So many things I should be doing better.


Why do I beat myself up? It might be to motivate me to do it better the next time, although I know I would not place that judgement or expectation on others. As a coach I encourage others to take a realistic view of their life. I will challenge their preconceived ideas about the barriers that are in their way, and together we will reach a positive outcome that will help them be the very best version of themselves.


It’s important to acknowledge the truth rather than being caught up in shame. With acknowledgement comes a strong platform from which to build and progress.  Acknowledging the truth in a kind and supportive way reduces anxiety and stress and shuts down the mind chatter of what you couldda/shouldda/wouldda done. This doesn’t get rid of the negative emotions, but you simply don’t feel as overwhelmed by them. You acknowledge “it is what it is” and you move forward. To dwell in the past provides no benefit for anyone.  Showing compassion to yourself in this way is a positive emotion that’s linked to the reward centres in the brain: it feels good to be kind, it improves happiness and increases resilience.


That’s not to say your letting yourself off the hook. You’re just not dwelling on it and you’re accepting that it happened, and you are learning from the experience to move on. You know that no one has it sussed all the time: everyone faces challenges, makes mistakes, feels overwhelmed at times and that’s OK. That’s life.


If you have a coach to support you then that’s great, and if you don’t, you need to take extra care of yourself to be more self-compassionate and give yourself a break. Have your own back. Give yourself a pat on the back, and know that when you fall flat on your back it’s OK and you will get back up again.  We’re constantly giving away what we need. We need to be included in that care and self-compassion as shame and self-criticism doesn’t help anyone.

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