Cut yourself some slack.
Too many of us run ourselves down.
Riya, my client, often experienced setbacks at work. Either the customer would not relent, or her peer did not support her on her proposals. Sometimes her team delivered poorly with no warning. Riya ended up having dejecting conversations with herself.
The inner chatter was about her not being good enough while her peers seemed to have it all together. When we met, she said “One would imagine that after 12 years of leading teams, and being a leader, I should have nailed this piece. But look, I am still struggling.” Her narrative around her not ‘getting it‘ prevailed for many months into coaching.
The inner critic’s voice is loud for us women. It tells us:
- How poorly we spoke.
- How ugly our teeth are.
- How less we know.
- How bad we are at writing.
- How guilty we should be as a mother.
- How much more we could do.
..and the list goes on.
The inner critic’s voice makes us feel inadequate almost immediately. The reason is that it brings back old memories of getting corrected, judged, and told what we did was not good enough. Some of us were called lazy, useless, and below average. Some of us have grown up in environments that expected a lot from us.
Riya grew up in a family of doctors. Her parents were accomplished professionals. Riya’s brother too was a doctor, and she says she grew up in his shadow, ‘I always feel I did not measure up to my parents’ expectations. I was good at academics but not good enough for medical school.’ Their expectation and her own sense of smallness was a weight on her shoulder. She carried it heavily and she said ‘I give myself a lot of grief when I do not do well, I am my worst critic, the voice is like a non-stop radio in my head.’
When we feel we do not match up, we speak berratingly to ourselves. Our hope is that we will trigger a more hard working or better self.
What this does instead, is:
- It makes us feel low.
- It keeps us judging ourselves.
- We lose more of our confidence.
- We start comparing ourselves.
- We set even higher targets.
- It keeps us sad.
- We become angry at the world sometimes.
Try An Alternative: Self Compassion.
It’s a strange alternative- but it works beautifully.
Self compassion contributes to our self confidence. It communicates to us our OKness as separate from our performance. Holding a compassionate attitude also means we are able to see that mistakes happen. It is a part of our human condition. It sees the value of showing kindness towards ourselves. It sees this kindness as a necessary building block to our self esteem.
You may wish to hear Kristin Neffs TED talk on this subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvtZBUSplr4
and also see her compassion scale instrument here, I found the questions illuminating: https://self-compassion.org/self-compassion-scales-for-researchers/ .
Here are some examples of how I speak to myself:
- Kind words to yourself – It’s Ok Sai, you managed well enough.
- Warm, encouraging language – It’s Ok Sai, you will learn it soon.
- Loving invitations to start again- It’s Ok Sai, start again tomorrow.
- Appreciative words for your strengths – Sai, you are good at thinking, expressing and teaching.
- Acknowledging where you have reached – Sai, you have reached here, which is great!
- Seeing the steps already taken – You have walked till here, let’s celebrate that.
The impact of coaching
Riya’s work in coaching allowed her to:
- Accept herself at times when she did not measure up to her own expectations.
- Learn to judge less, and be more kind.
- Give herself a long rope and cut herself some slack.
- Say more of ‘ I am OK.’
‘I am OK’, is the start of adopting a growth mindset. The place where we know that we are not ‘yet’ there but we will get there. In this way it best suits who we are and wish to be, at our own pace, in our own unique ways.
If you wish to read more about the inner critic check: