Accept yourself or improve yourself?
Do you ever get confused by the seemingly mixed messages around us? Some people firmly and loudly proclaim, “You are perfect just the way you are!" Others are equally convinced of the opposite, "You can do better! Keep striving to improve.”
For coaches, this is more than a philosophical question. Are we loving people just the way they are, or are we helping them to improve?
Some people assume that self-improvement can only come by believing there’s something inherently wrong or flawed within you and that you must be improved or fixed. Based on that belief, some people create insecurities and dissatisfaction to sell the pursuit of improvement or even perfection.
They create a sense of shame and doubt. And a lot of consumers lick that up because they have always believed that if you were to accept yourself, then you would just become complacent. The thinking goes, "If I don't beat myself up, won't I just sit at home all the time eating ice cream and watching Netflix?"
However, it's worth asking the question if self-criticism is really the motivator we think it is. The truth is that people who criticize and shame themselves are more likely to be anxious and depressed, blame others, and create a negative atmosphere.
That's where self-compassion comes in. Accepting, loving, and embracing yourself when you're at your worst is enormously healing and motivating. When you look honestly at your failures, faults, and imperfections with a sense of kindness, you can think of ways to make changes.
Self-kindness actually gives you the strength you need to reach your goals. It's like a koan - the holding of opposites - you're beautiful and perfectly okay just as you are right now, which means that you can improve and grow.
When you think about what helps a small child, you know that telling a child, "I love you. It's ok. You're learning," when they make a mistake is one of the most helpful, empowering responses you can give.
If you're like me, when you see a parent shouting, "My God, you're so selfish and lazy! You're never going to make anything of yourself," it gives a sick feeling in the stomach. Poor kid. How can they survive the onslaught, let alone grow and thrive?
So, let's treat ourselves with all the loving kindness that we'd like to see every child in the world receive. How about if the next time you make a mistake, you try some compassionate whispers with yourself? Just like a good coach would.
As coaches, our answer is YES! We love you just the way you are, and we help you improve.
You might talk to yourself with some of these phrases, which you can say to yourself in your own words (even if it feels strange at first to talk to yourself so gently):
- That sounds so human. Everybody feels that way sometimes.
- My darling, I see you're suffering a bit right now. I love you.
- I'm listening to you. I hear you.
- You made a mistake, and I love you just as much now as ever.
- It's OK to step back for a minute and breathe. You're bigger than this situation. It will be OK.
I promise that when you accept and nurture yourself with kindness, you can thrive. You have my personal permission. What about your own?
With great love,