Be your own No 1 fan
When my husband and I first met, he used to joke that he was my “No 1 fan”. He buoyed me up with words of encouragement and celebrated what went well for me. He even came and cheered me on at a tennis match. (He’s still very supportive though, 10 years on, he doesn’t come to watch me play tennis anymore.)
If you’ve got a “No 1 fan” in your life, whether a colleague, friend, family member or partner, then that’s great. However, it’s no good having a cheerleader like this in your life if your Inner Critic – the negative voice in your head – cancels them out.
For example, Jane had just been promoted to Director when we started working together. She couldn’t understand why she’d been promoted and believed the powers that be would soon realise the mistake they made. When they sat her down a few weeks later and said that she had exceeded all their expectations, she still didn’t believe them.
Given our in-built negativity bias, being hard on ourselves comes so much more easily than being nice to ourselves. I wrote an article a few months back called Feed the positive, Starve the negative on this subject which you may want to check out.
The benefits of self-compassion
When I first discovered the concept of self-compassion a few years back, it was a revelation that I could give myself the emotional support I needed without seeking it from someone – or something – else. Self-compassion isn’t about seeing yourself as God’s gift to the human race but is a blend of self-kindness and self-acceptance – treating yourself in the same way you would a loved one, embracing them flaws and all.
Multiple studies show how being compassionate to ourselves enhances motivation, self-worth, resilience and happiness and reduces self-criticism, anxiety and depression. And far from being a self-indulgent practice, research shows that practising self-compassion makes us more likely to be kinder to others – good news whether at home or work.
You’ve got this
One of the key elements of practising self-compassion is positive self-talk. Personally, I find the phrase, “You’re doing really well – you’ve got this” encouraging when I notice I’m beating myself up.
If you find it hard to be nice to yourself, then drawing on supportive characters in your life may work better for you. Rick Hanson in his book, Resilient, suggested having not just one “inner nurturer” but a “caring committee” which may include people you know like friends and family as well as fictional characters like Gandalf.
May I leave you with this short but sweet quote from Byron Katie : “It’s not your job to like me – it’s mine.”
Alison Reid helps new Directors focus on what matters, communicate with impact and stay calm and effective under pressure so they can lead themselves and others to great results. She's the author of Unleash Your Leadership : How to Worry Less and Achieve More. Download an extract or buy the book.