I mean – really love yourself. Not merely being proud of your achievements; or being able to look well after yourself; or see that you get ahead and get your share of the cake.
If you are a high performing leader, chances are that self love is not your greatest strength. You have arrived at your success by being demanding on yourself, by pushing yourself, and often by being your own worst critic. It may seem like the recipe of your success.
But you see – what got you here may be exactly what will keep you from getting there: our inner head-master and critic are strong in creating disciplined results. But following them is also exhausting, and not sustainable. Their drive for perfection makes it difficult to find opportunities and learnings in failures. And in leadership, it turns you into a role model of a robotic work style rather than into the visionary leader others will want to follow.
My own version of this dynamic has been a headmaster telling me that I’m supposed to always work hard and a strong inner critic, who reliably told me that whatever I did was not that much of a deal. No reasons to tell myself or others about my successes – just carry on and do my best. How exhausting it was. How frustrating in the long run ! And not self love.
Because self love means unconditional acceptance, compassion and love towards ourselves. It means that we celebrate our successes – less about the material success we created and not because we are better than others, but because we – the human being – deserve to be celebrated for having given what the situation demanded. It means celebrating successes and failures for the opportunity they give us to learn. It means giving ourselves some slack, when we’re tired. “Drop it or delegate it”. And it means to hold ourselves with compassion when things go less well, to let go of all the “should haves” and “could haves” and instead to talk to ourselves with kindness and accept our imperfection.
I have learned that loving myself is the foundation for success and happiness, and for being able to truly love others. I am still not there – often my inner headmaster and critic still get the better of me. But I have developed a number of practices, which have helped me on my way, and which I offer to my clients. I would like to share three of them here, which you can use on your own:
Observing: during one week (you can start with one day), put conscious attention to hear the voices of your inner headmaster and critic: what do they say to you?
What do they demand?
What principles do they preach?
What impact do they have on your energy, your thoughts and your feelings?
At the end of each day, take 10 minutes to write down your observations. Observation creates awareness and awareness creates choice.
Replacing: during one week, practice replacing these messages with an attitude and with messages of compassion and kindness towards yourself. If mistakes or “sub standards” occur, replace the voice of the inner critic with the voice of creativity and learning, looking for the insights and opportunities that lie in this outcome.
Set the intention each morning to apply this practice (otherwise it’s easy to slip into the old
At the end of the day, reflect back on your observations and learnings.
Loving regard: take a childhood picture of you, and look at it, with loving regard. Look at yourself, the essence and energy you perceive in this picture.
In your mind, embrace this child you once were, hold it for a moment, with unconditional love.
Bring to your awareness and feel: your essence today is still the same as the one you see in your childhood picture.
You deserve the same loving regard, and the same unconditional love.
Lots of love, Sylvia x