In a few days we will be celebrating St. Valentine's Day...a holiday to share expressions of affection among family, friends, and significant others. Have you ever considered adding yourself to that list? Could that also be the day you start to show yourself a little tenderness, self-compassion and go a little easier on yourself?
Dr. Kristin Neff, a leader in self-compassion research, states the most important aspect of this concept is to "honor and accept your humanness". This is often a challenge for highly driven leaders who put unrealistic demands on themselves, set goals that greatly exceed capacity and then "beat themselves up" when they don't achieve...or don't over achieve! This typically results in a cycle of disappointment, decreased self-esteem, frustration and eventual burnout. If this scenario sounds familiar, use this Valentine's Day to try a little tenderness on yourself. Below are a few suggestions on how to start practicing more self-compassion.
Show yourself some kindness. When you mess up or fall short don't collapse into self-pity or let your inner critic play the constant blame game. Recognize and accept the results, learn from them and move on. By fixating on the situation and re-running that movie over and over in your head, you set yourself up for getting stuck and take up space and energy you could use in a more productive way. Practicing this approach will build your resilience, a necessary skill for leaders.
Remember you are human. It is very easy to overextend yourself and over promise on deliverables. Additionally, many of us are faced with unexpected interruptions or constantly changing priorities. When you start feeling inadequate, or that you are failing, look objectively at the scope of your responsibilities. Give equal time to what you have accomplished and what remains to be done---don't just focus on the latter. Recognizing that you have made positive contributions builds confidence and motivation that equips you to better manage and execute over time.
Keep only what belongs to you. Own and control your own thoughts and emotions, but don’t assume you know what others are thinking or feeling. Some level of ego and narcissism is healthy, but becomes damaging when you start to consistently feel you are tied to others' reactions. For example, thinking that an eye roll by a co-worker during the meeting was a result of your poor presentation. Or if your boss passes by you in a hurry and barely speaks and you conclude that they must be disappointed with you. It's totally appropriate to be curious about behaviors, and seek answers, but don't immediately think it centers around you and conclude the worst possible situation. More times than not it had nothing to do with you. By holding on to unsubstantiated facts, you risk not developing and sustaining solid relationships that are critical for all successful leaders.
There are many benefits when you practice self compassion. A few of the most significant include...a positive correlation with overall well-being, greater social connectedness, and emotional intelligence. So, taking a cue from the lyrics of an old Otis Redding song "But it's all so easy, all you got to do is try, try a little tenderness" and honor and accept your humanness!
Wishing you a Journey With Purpose!