I’ve been thinking lately about the emotional software installed into who I am, asking myself what programs I run routinely and what programs might need to be added or deleted from my personal hard drive.
Truth is, I’m my own toughest critic. If I make a mistake or miss a deadline or gain ten pounds, I’m the first one to notice and to chastise myself. My colleagues make room for my errors, friends understand when I’m not at my best, and my family loves me at any level of physical or emotional fitness. The people in my life appreciate me for who I am and celebrate my achievements along the way. I don’t surround myself with nitpickers and critics.
When I think about my friends and family, I focus on their good qualities, enumerate the reasons I love them, and I hold them in high esteem. But when I think about loving myself, well that’s another story. I become self-critical and unkind. Somehow, kindness toward others comes more naturally to me than kindness toward myself. Somewhere along the way the emotional software for self-compassion in my personality simply uninstalled.
I’m on a personal journey to reinstall it! I’m creating a daily habit out of being kind to myself, which means I’m focusing on two habits: emotional generosity and self-advocacy.
Apparently, the struggle for self-compassion is not uncommon among women. Melissa Van Rossum, businessperson, author and lecturer, says, “I started thinking about how most women demand so much of themselves, typically without the support and compassion we would readily offer someone else.” She explains that being hard on herself had become ingrained into who she was. “It was just an innate reaction, a bad habit gone unchecked for too long.”
For me, it’s easy to give love and attention to my husband, children and friends. It’s effortless for me to tell my daughter she’s amazing or compliment my husband on his good looks. But I find myself shying away from giving myself the same openhearted compliments. These days, I’m challenging myself to turn some of that emotional generosity toward myself. Aren’t I worth it?
Basically, self-advocacy means speaking up for myself. I’m also putting that into stronger practice in my life. That means fighting for my own dignity and respect, even if sometimes it means fighting myself.
If anyone said one negative word against one of my friends, I would immediately meet that criticism with a catalog of my friend’s good qualities. I would protect, defend and offer robust counterpoints. I haven’t always done the same for myself.
Dr Susan Krauss Whitbourne encourages people to turn destructive self-talk into constructive self-talk. “Once you get in the habit of observing your self-talk, noting whether or not it’s constructive, you’ll find it that much easier not only to inspire others, but also yourself.”
From now on, when my self-talk turns negative, I’ll advocate for myself the same way I would for a loved one. I’ll remind myself who I really am, what my values are and all of the ways in which I live out those values on a daily basis. I’ll defend myself to myself, if that’s what I need to do.
Find yourself running the wrong emotional programs, and want to reinstall self-compassion? Join me in creating better habits, starting with emotional generosity and self-advocacy today.