Your boss gave you some strong feedback—you go over and over his comments in your mind worrying and re-analysing every word. Does this mean you’re going to loose out on the promotion you’ve been working for?
You go to a family party and a relative you haven’t seen for a while tells you that you’ve changed—and you replay her comments over and over again. Does this mean you’re looking older; you’ve lost your edge?
You meet up with a friend for lunch and they spend most of time telling you about their wonderful new apartment and the holiday they are going to be taking this year. You find yourself comparing your home to theirs and wondering why you cannot afford to go on exciting adventures.
What’s wrong with you? Why are you such a loser?
We have all done our own version of this—taking people’s comments as being judgements on who we are and finding ourselves lacking. It undermines our confidence, saps our energy and blitzes our creativity. Why do we do it? For some of us it seems as if we have the voice of an over-strict teacher, or a judgmental parent in our heads all the time. We convince ourselves that unless we give ourselves a really good talking to about where we find ourselves in our lives, that somehow we are letting ourselves off too lightly. We treat ourselves as if we can bully ourselves into being how we think we should be.
It’s time to give ourselves a break.
First of all—where did we get the idea from that we have to perfect, and not just some of the time but all of the time?
We would never speak to a friend the way we speak to ourselves. For the most part, when a friend tells us about something they got wrong, or a worry they have, we try to listen and respond helpfully. When the same thing happens to us, we tend to chastise ourselves and even call ourselves names.
It’s as if we think that if we say the worst things to ourselves, then it acts as a kind of protection from anything anyone else says—we’ve told ourselves how badly we’ve done already and we’re prepared. However, this is an illusion and simply serves to make us feel inadequate and unworthy.
Treating ourselves this way sets up a habit and it can even make it harder to be there for other people—the people we work with, or do not know so well. If we judge ourselves and don’t give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, why would we try to do this for others?
Turning this around and showing ourselves some self-compassion has an immediate impact on our confidence. Instead of beating ourselves up we give ourselves the space to see that we have the possibility to work with whatever is happening to us, that we are in fact trying our best and are worthy of respect and love. When we can view our behaviour in this way we are opening up a space where we can take a moment to really look at what is going on, to reflect that as human beings we all get into difficult situations everyday and that instead of feeling bad about it, we can use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.