Try a Little Tenderness
Earlier this month I wrote about self-esteem, what it is and why it is important to build it. To have good self esteem is to have belief and confidence in your ability and worth. It is really important to be able to recognise your strengths and capabilities, to be able to congratulate yourself for your successes and be proud of yourself. This can be hard sometimes, and is a real skill to learn.
One thing I have found incredibly helpful is self compassion. Self esteem is largely about our strengths and our value - it is about bigging ourselves up. Which is wonderful, and an important skill to have. Self compassion however is about loving ourselves, and giving ourselves kindness regardless. To be compassionate towards ourselves is to be kind even when we do fail, or let ourselves down.
Often people think that if we use compassion and kindness that we’ll get lazy and unmotivated. That it is the ‘you’re not good enough, try harder’ attitude that keeps them pushing. But actually studies have shown the opposite is true. When we only focus on our strengths we can come to fear our weaknesses and avoid anything that brings them to light. This then limits us, and creates a sense of fear in our lives. However when we treat ourselves with love we can trust ourselves, and step out of our comfort zones sure that we are still wonderful people no matter the result.
So how do we give ourselves that compassion? Simple answer - talk to yourself how you would talk to your best friend! If your best friend came to you and said they’d made a big mistake at work, and were feeling really upset and down about it, how would you support them? Then do that for yourself! You wouldn’t tell your friend they were useless, or not good enough would you? Surely you’d tell themselves that they’re still amazing, and that it’ll all work out OK. So why don’t we talk to ourselves the same way? Give it a go!!
We usually find it pretty easy to give compassion to others, slightly harder to receive it from others, and in a lot of cases, near impossible to give it to ourselves. One trick I find helpful is to think of a time when you were having a hard time, and a friend or loved one was giving you kindness and compassion - what did it feel like to be on the receiving end? How were they behaving and talking? What’s their body language like? And when you have that picture in your mind - step into their shoes! Then give it to yourself.
With this, it is all about balance. I am not saying that it is a bad thing to use self esteem, it is important to be able to know your strengths and be confident in them. But it is also so important to be able to love yourself regardless! When we are kind we recognise our underlying, innate worth, and can recognise that goes deeper than how good we are at our jobs! Try it out, what have you got to lose?