By Joan Endicott
“What are you most excited about right now?” I asked my coaching client, after our initial greeting. “Well, I’m excited about our call — it’s definitely great timing,” she responded. Then with her emotions on the edge and voice cracking, she continued, “But I’m not very happy with myself. How am I not getting more done? How am I not further along? I feel so frustrated — even angry at myself at times. I’m this old and I don’t have more of a handle on this? What’s wrong with me? I guess I’m just lazy.”
As she shared a bit more, her emotions calmed, yet was still teary. I began lovingly clarifying a few things with her. “Didn’t you move in the last two weeks?”
“Yes,” she replied.
I continued, “…and wasn’t that important project you led your team on and completed before the deadline the #1 priority for your boss?”
“Yes,” she said again.
“And last week you were thrilled to share with me that no matter what, you’ve kept your self-care a huge priority; your sleep, exercise and eating well?”
“Yes, I’m happy to say I did do that…but I didn’t…”
“It’s okay, Sis, we’ll get to that,” I assured her. “But first, it’s important to get clarity on what you did do — what you did accomplish so you can give yourself credit and do the happy dance about that!”
After creating the list of all she did accomplish, with love and admiration for her, in my goofy you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me voice, I asked, “Sooo, just one quick question, my friend. When exactly would you have done those other things in the last two weeks — maybe between 2 and 4 a.m.? I mean, didn’t we agree a few months ago that your superwoman undies got lost in the laundry?!”
Thrilled to hear her laughter at this point, I knew it was the perfect time to go deeper and help her uncover and discover what was happening with the enormous weight of self-judgment and self-criticism she was stuck, struggling and suffering under.
Before going deeper though, it was so important for me to let her know she was not alone — not at all. I could relate all too well in having struggled for years with self-condemning thoughts, beating myself up and feeling I’m never doing enough or just not good enough period! Have you ever felt that way? Well, I’m here to say, there is hope for you today! I am living proof that you can overcome those false beliefs and be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), learning to look at yourself through a loving, compassionate lens.
These were my three specific steps as I guided her through the process:
Step #1. Objective-Perspective. An objective perspective is foundational to begin practicing self-compassion. “If your daughter or best friend called you up and had just experienced what you have over the last two weeks, and she said exactly what you said to me — How did I not get more done? How am I not further along than this? I feel so frustrated…I guess I’m just lazy — what would you say to her?”
She quickly responded with, “Well, I’d tell her she needed to be more patient and not so harsh with herself and…” I could literally hear her grin and feel her energy shift over the phone. “I’d tell her what you always remind me to do, Joan, to give herself credit!” We both burst out laughing!
And then I added, “You are so quick to offer compassion and empathy to others — family, friends, even employees you’re leading — but not for yourself.”
“I know, Joan!” she said. “It’s easy for me to see it so clearly when it involves someone else, but I guess I just expect more from myself than I do others!”
“Why do you think that is?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I feel like I’m never happy with what I’ve done because there’s always more I could do. Clearly, I’ve never understood what it meant to be loving and compassionate to myself, much less begin practicing it.” She then laughed as she said, “Sooo, that’s something I get to work on with you, right, coach?”
It’s fascinating that we can expect so much more from ourselves than we would a loved one. If you’re not intentional, you will quickly and easily go from critiquing a situation to condemning yourself, just as my client did. She went from talking about her frustration with the situation to judging and condemning herself. In her heightened emotion she started calling herself names and saying things that were completely false.
Step #2. Is That True? The second step was reviewing what she had said about herself and
simply asking her, “Is that really true?” The reason this is so important is because your words, whether in your thoughts or spoken aloud, are programming your subconscious mind to believe what you’re telling it to believe. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)
In her TEDTalk on self-compassion, Dr. Kristin Neff shared, “With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. In contrast to self-esteem, self-compassion is not based on self-evaluations. People feel compassion for themselves because all human beings deserve compassion and understanding, not because they possess some particular set of traits (pretty, smart, talented, and so on).”
Dr. Neff also points out that, “Self-compassion is very strongly related to mental well-being. It’s strongly related to less depression, less anxiety, less stress, and less perfectionism. It’s equally related to positive states like happiness, life-satisfaction, greater motivation, greater self-responsibility, making healthier lifestyle choices. It’s also linked to having more sense of connectedness with others and better interpersonal relationships.”
Step #3. Attack Situations Not Self! It’s crucial to make the clear distinction between attacking problems, not people — situations, not self. A simple, effective tool is to start with I’m feeling… versus I am…
I love how Dr. Brené Brown (a researcher, author and storyteller who is well known for her research on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame) makes the very clear distinction between guilt and shame feelings. Guilt: I did something wrong. Shame: I am something wrong.
WOW! Isn’t that so powerful? That clear difference provided such a huge shift for me, as I hope it will for you.
Brené says, “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”
So how do you shift out of shame?
Brené’s advice: “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
This is exactly what I see happen with my coaching clients who’ve struggled with shame, whether for years or days. When they openly share their shame-struggles with me, receiving my heartfelt empathy, I can feel the shift for them. The heavy chains are gone, the stranglehold is broken. It’s truly fascinating to watch as empathy dissolves shame.
It’s equally important to be selective with whom you share. Dr. Brown cautions, “If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.”
The Bible is full of scriptures that talk about God’s compassion toward us and how we should have compassion towards others. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)
But if you don’t first see yourself the way God sees you, calling yourself what He calls you, you can’t possibly give to others what you don’t first possess for yourself, right?
Whenever you’re unsure of how you should think of yourself or speak to yourself, consider asking these important questions: A) Are my thoughts and words about myself in alignment with what my Creator says about me? B) What would I tell my best friend or loved one right now in this same situation?
Now, you get to start practicing self-compassion today!
Grab your FREE “I Get To!”® book at www.JoanEndicott.com and sign up for FREE blog videos on self-compassion, etc. Joan Endicott is an Award-Winning Keynote Speaker, Author of “I Get To!”® founder of GIANT-Slayer Coaching and “WOW!” Women Owning Their Worth©. Her coaching reaches over 30 countries. Follow her on FB and IG — she posts encouraging words daily!