There’s something very important that I’ve learned in my 20+ years of owning my own Leadership Development and Executive Coaching business – and something that’s been reinforced since my memoir "To the Moon and Back: a Childhood Under the Influence" was published last September.
As a species, we are tough on ourselves. And as women, we often take that to an even more extreme. We say things (in our minds) to ourselves that we would never say to anyone else. We judge ourselves more critically than we would judge a best friend – and sometimes even more critically than we might judge an “enemy." We hold ourselves to ridiculously high standards and generally lambast ourselves when we don’t meet those insanely high standards.
Trust me; it’s time to stop.
Because holding ourselves to unattainable standards only sets us up to disappoint ourselves and to fail. And “failing" can demotivate us and potentially depress us. Beating ourselves up for not doing enough or not doing well enough does not inspire us to do more or to do more better. Most often it shuts us down or reinforces our procrastination or helps us add to the seemingly non-ending list of what could go wrong and why we can’t do this thing we want to do.
Again, it’s time to stop.
I am a recovering perfectionist.
It is deeply, deeply ingrained in me to push myself harder and to expect more of myself than any one person can (usually) possibly do. But I have learned over the years that that attitude – and pressure – gets in my way more than it ever helps me move forward.
I have owned my business for over twenty years and throughout those years, I saw how I treated myself when I wasn’t performing well enough or fast enough. From that, I've learned that pushing myself for more and faster doesn’t help.
In fact, being kinder to myself and giving myself more breaks, is what helps. But easier said than done, especially if you’re programmed to push and drive.
So, here are a few of the methods I’ve learned (and that I share with my clients) that have helped me be kinder to myself and more powerful and successful:
Figure Out What Makes You Smile & Do It
You may have to take my word on this, but one of the most motivating things you can do is to do something that brings a smile to your face. It may be sitting with a cup of coffee in the morning and letting yourself take time to enjoy it. It may be getting up and walking around the block when your brain feels full or tired. It may be reaching out to a friend or a loved one for a break. Trust me – taking these self-care breaks will fuel you.
Talk Back to Those Voices in Your Head
I think we think that yelling at ourselves will get the most out of ourselves, but the opposite is true. However, it’s often hard to stop those relentless voices unless you’ve prepared something to say back to them. Prepare. When you tell yourself you haven’t done enough, remind yourself that you’ve done a great job so far. When you pick on yourself because you made a mistake, point out to yourself how much you’ve learned. Know what you’re going to say to yourself that is kinder, and say it over and over and over if necessary.
Think About How You Would Treat Your Best Friend
Again, we often treat ourselves worse than we would treat anyone else. The next time you start to beat yourself up, think about your best friend. What would you say to them? How would you treat them? How much compassion and understanding would you show them? Now show that to yourself.
Many, if not most, of us, are way too hard on ourselves. Way too hard on ourselves. But it’s possible to reprogram that programming and to learn to treat yourself well. And treating yourself well will help you. It will help you be more successful and happier. Trust me.
Lisa Kohn is the author of to the moon and back: a childhood under the influence, as well as The Power of Thoughtful Leadership. She is a writer, teacher, and public speaker who owns a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm (www.chatsworthconsulting.com) and who works to bring to others the tools, mind-shifts, and practices she’s found that have helped her heal, as well as the hope and forgiveness she’s been blessed to let into her life. She will always tell you that she is a native New Yorker, but she currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children, whenever they’re around.