My wish is that when you read my blogs you feel inspired to grow. To evolve.
And I sincerely hope that this desire comes from a place of excitement on a foundation of belief in your worthiness.
Because, if I have not told you lately- you are not broken.
All of us have flaws and negative default patterns of behavior, and most of these will never fully go away. They creep up in our most vulnerable times— often when we are afraid, mentally or physically exhausted, or triggered. You know those thoughts or actions– the ones you wish you could completely keep out of your life… but no matter how hard you try to hold the door shut on them they eventually burst through, often inciting chaos.
I have many default behaviors, some of them definitely less endearing. And I used to focus really hard on fixing these. But this only caused me to live in a cycle of conditional love and crippling shame for myself— trying really hard and diligently to not let my imperfect tendencies bubble up to the surface, then inevitably when they did I would lash out, followed by the shame that turned into the desire to find perfection again… and again and again.
And guess what? This way of thinking did not serve me in any aspect of my life and did not allow me to move forward in any of my roles. It led me to focus so inwardly on managing my persona that I feared I was missing many opportunities to truly connect with and love others—professionally and personally.
With the help of an amazing therapist and mentorship of others I was able to give a life changing gift to myself that increased my ability to give to others—I decided to let these default behaviors in. Now I open the door. I look them in the eye. I wrestle with them instead of trying so hard to pretend they are not there. And then if I still decide to indulge (which I often do!), I inevitably eventually realize my error, learning my lesson and moving forward with self compassion.
According to Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading researcher on the concept, self compassion means you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to— you will encounter failures and frustrations, hurts and loses, make mistakes, and fall short of your expectations and ideals. But being imperfect is part of our shared human experience.
When you have self compassion you should still grow in ways to be happier and/or mentally, physically, or emotionally healthier. But you do so from a place of self love, rather than a mindset that you are worthless the way you are. You see mistakes and failures as part of life, not as something that defines you as a person.
Practicing self compassion helps you trust you.
When you know that you can make mistakes and it does not alter your worthiness you are less afraid. You move froward with confidence in your endeavors rather than holding back out of fear or scarcity. You trust that you will allow yourself to be disappointed if things don’t go how you’d like, but will not senselessly “beat yourself up,” falling into a cycle of shame and victimization.
This gift greatly impacts goal setting. As you can see from my own shame cycle mentioned above, cruel self talk only buys you limited time. It is inevitable that your default behaviors or even knew areas of imperfection will creep back in and often demand attention when you least expect it. We have all been there— things are going so well, you feel completely in control, and then someone triggers you in some way— and you react. You think or act in a way that you don’t like about yourself.
You can break the cycle. Move forward giving yourself the same kindness you would give your kids, friends, and loved ones when they make mistakes or do that same “thing” they have done a million times before. Honor and accept your imperfect humanness.
So how can we gain more self compassion?
Stop punishing yourself for your mistakes. Accept that you are not perfect and be gentle with yourself when you are confronted with your shortcomings. You are valued by your friends and colleagues because of who you are, not because you are faultless. Become aware of times when you derive a sense of self-worth from performance or perfection. Understand that you do not need to be a certain way to be worthy of love.
Employ a Growth Mindset
Embrace rather than avoid challenges, persist in finding meaning in them, and don’t give up on yourself. When you find you are criticizing yourself and negatively comparing yourself with others, try to find inspiration in their successes and strengths instead of feeling threatened.
Rather than wishing for what we do not have, there is strength in appreciating what we do have, right now. By focusing on our blessings we employ a gentler inner voice and move the focus away from our shortcomings and outward to the world, with all its beauty.
Strive to always be in the moment and to be aware of what is happening right now, without judgment and labeling. This is how you open the door to what you think or feel to allow it to have its moment. Allow it to come in, and then, without attachment, let it go.
For many of us the holidays trigger the need for loads of self compassion. There are so many balls to juggle and therefor so many opportunities to drop one (or many!). Our minds are consumed with gifts and traditions and family and schedules… and tradition means years of potential holiday emotional baggage bubbling to the surface as well. So many expectations breeds so many chances to be cruel to ourselves in thought or in action.
I urge you today to take a big breath and take some space away from the “shoulds” and “need tos” of the holiday season. Practice self care by creating boundaries and holding compassion for yourself. Then let this new way of thinking and acting permeate your entire life, becoming a real part of your growth as an athlete, a parent, a partner, a boss, an employee, etc. As a human.
When you treat yourself with kindness you will be able to do so more authentically with others. It is true that we can only pour out of a full cup.
So be nice to you. And when you inevitably mess up give yourself the hug or speak the compassionate words that you would do for others.