[This blog originally appeared on Medium and is reprinted here with permission].
I know you. You’re running around making sure everyone on your Valentine’s Day list feels special and loved. If I had to bet, I’d also say the most important person who needs to be reminded of your love and compassion isn’t even on that list. It’s YOU!
I don’t have to tell you this, but … as women, we are often very hard on ourselves. We hold ourselves to an incredibly high standard. When we fall short, we beat ourselves up. Men can be hard on themselves too. But, the difference is they don’t tend to beat themselves up about failures and setbacks as aggressively or personally as we do.
For many women, that voice inside our head can become especially discouraging or worse. When that happens — especially over sustained periods — those behaviors can become habits. Over time, those bad habits impact our self-esteem, confidence, and our tolerance for taking on new challenges.
Author Katherine Wintsch lived this story and it drove her into a very dark and scary place. She didn’t fully appreciate the damage she was doing to herself and to others until she hit bottom. I sat down with Katherine in Episode 78 of She Said/She Said podcast to talk about her book “Slay Like a Mother.” She’s hoping to help others recognize the signs and the damage lack of self-compassion can have. Katherine’s metaphorical “dragon” is such a powerful way to think about how we often talk to and treat ourselves.
While the behavior is common, there are ways to discourage and break the cycle. Katherine provides terrific suggestions in her book, but here are three tips I find helpful and hope you will too.
Make a list of all your recent successes and the impact you’ve had on others.
This list can include things like sticking to goals (working out x times per week, increasing your intake of water by x amount, etc… ), showing up for a friend, accomplishments at work, and/or doing something to improve yourself (like taking a course; challenging yourself to try something new; taking on a new hobby or tackling something creative). You might also include nice emails or notes you’ve received that tell you how important and special you are to others, and how you’ve had a positive impact on them. Nothing is too big or small. If it’s something that feels good to you and that you are proud of, write it down. As you do so, think about how that makes you feel, and let it remind you of how valued, important, and worthy you are. (Note: Getting into the habit of making these lists can provide an added boost to your confidence. Try to keep it close by so you can refer to it often.)
Become more aware of how you talk to yourself.
Try to become more aware of that negative voice that may live inside your head. Make a note of when she pipes up, what tends to trigger her, what are the related negative thoughts, and how you feel. As you do this, quickly try to pivot your thoughts to something more positive. For example, let’s say you just pitched a potential client or sponsor only to have them reject your proposal. Your “dragon” (to use Katherine Wintsch’s metaphor) might say to you, “Of course they rejected it. It wasn’t good. You’re too stupid to be doing this work, you don’t know what you are doing, etc…” As you hear those negative words in your head, tell yourself, “You learned a lot with that pitch. You asked for and got great feedback from a potential client/sponsor. That feedback will help you with the next pitch, and you also made a great contact, etc….” You get the idea. Shifting to the positive is also a habit, but a much more positive, productive, and healthy one.
Spend a few minutes (even 5-10) when you open your eyes or just before you close them for the night to run through a list of things you are grateful for. Be specific: your health, family members, friends, someone who did something really nice for you, a beautiful day, enough to eat, a strong body, freedom, a clear head, etc… The more things you name the better you’ll feel. Running through this list — whether to yourself, in your journal, or in a prayer of gratitude — will further help you shift your mindset and get to a better place from which to slay your “dragon.”
By working harder to appreciate, be kinder, and to love ourselves, we’ll also find that we have greater capacity to love those around us even more. I’m working on this, and hope you will too! I can’t think of a better way to kick off your Valentine’s Day than spending a few minutes reflecting on the value you bring to those around you and all the ways you make the world a better place. Wishing you much love this Valentine’s Day!
Please send me your own thoughts and suggestions. I would love to hear from you!
#selfcompassion #negativeselftalk #rumination #confidence #selflove #valentinesday