I was in a coaching session with a client a few weeks ago. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about; I just remember that my client was recounting something that had happened, and then, as if out of nowhere, they said that thing that I, unfortunately, hear my clients (and friends and family) say all too often:
“I can’t believe I reacted that way! How dumb/silly/stupid/wrong of me!”
I took a slow breath before responding, and my client heard my pause and chuckled. “I did it again, huh?” they asked.
I asked for permission from my client, and, once granted, I began pointing out the many, many reasons why they might have reacted that way. They were tired. Covid is hard. Back to work is hard. Now is hard. They’ve been caught in this same “argument” with their co-worker for seemingly months now. Now is hard.
And before I could even think it through, I offered this challenge – “What if 2022 were the year we stopped saying mean things to ourselves?” I asked.
Many of us consciously or unconsciously believe that we will be more/most successful when we find – and correct – all of our many wrongs. When we scrutinize ourselves and chastise ourselves when we go astray. When we push ourselves harder and allow ourselves very little – or no – wiggle room to experiment and mess up.
But decades of supporting leaders – and decades of my own learning and growth – have taught me that, actually, the exact opposite is true. When we find – and correct – all of our many wrongs, when we scrutinize ourselves and chastise ourselves when we go astray, when we push ourselves harder and allow ourselves very little – or no – wiggle room, we actually are less successful. And less happy. And less enjoyable to be, live, and work with.
I was with another client just the other day, who was explaining a situation that they were facing. “I kind of get that I can’t do this perfectly,” my client said, “but I just don’t want to fail!”
Again, I took a slow breath before responding, and my client heard my pause and chuckled. “I did it again, huh?” they asked.
“Maybe,” I offered, “maybe there is a huge number of possibilities and outcomes between doing it perfectly and failing,” I suggested.
When we drive ourselves this mercilessly and allow no space for our curiosity, experimentation, and dare I say, humanity, we limit ourselves.
What if 2022 were the year we stopped saying mean things to ourselves and stopped treating ourselves harshly? What if we, instead, treated ourselves like a best friend or someone we loved? What if we encouraged ourselves and welcomed ourselves with kindness? How might that go?
I offer you that challenge and can’t wait to hear how it works for you. Please let us know.
How have you learned to stop saying mean things to yourself? How has it gone?
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