Leaders may be one of the groups in the workplace that need the most self-compassion. Think about our servant leadership model; it’s all about serving and putting others above yourself. (Ep 131, 132) By leading through your values and giving everything away to others, you fail to give yourself that same level of care that you afford others.
Affording yourself self-compassion as a leader is essential for your personal and professional growth. Studies from around the world show self-compassion’s power to lower stress and anxiety while building resilience to successfully weather life’s challenges/.
Understanding your roadblocks to self-compassion
It’s important to have a good sense of what self-compassion is in order to get a firm understanding of how you can identify what’s holding you back. Self-compassion isn’t self-esteem. It’s not simply how you think about yourself, it’s really more about looking at yourself from the same perspective that you look at others.
Here are some of the reasons and roadblocks that you may have in place that keep you from that perspective:
- You may feel the need to be harder on yourself in order to lead at the highest level of value-based leadership.
- You may feel like you don’t deserve the same break that you give others.
- You may not feel like you need the same compassion and care that you offer others. There may be a deep level of feeling like you are better than the other person without even knowing it.
- You may not see the disconnect because you don’t naturally reach out with care and compassion to others, so you don’t do so for yourself either.
Mindfulness and Compassion together for success
Kristen Neff describes mindfulness and compassion as “two wings of a bird” working together to bring you to new heights. I love that visual and it really drives home the point that you can’t have one without the other.
Mindfulness is the reflective focus that you have for yourself. You take in your thoughts and feelings without the extra baggage of judgment or condemnation.
Without having a healthy mindfulness approach to yourself it’s hard to have self-compassion. Think about this; how can you be kind and show care to yourself if you constantly judging and putting yourself down?
Put it into action
Here are some ways that you can apply mindfulness and self-compassion in your life today.
- Be realistic with yourself. With all the competing priorities these days, you are going to fail and miss the mark. Understand that it’s ok.
- Be a friend to yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to be a narcissist. Instead of going to the extreme of making yourself the main character in everyone’s story, be mindful to think about yourself as you would a friend. What advice or guidance would you give them if they were in the same situation?
- Take a mindfulness break. My latest smartwatch came with a mindfulness reminder app. At first, I took it as a distraction, but now I do take advantage of those reminders when I can. It’s helpful to refocus during those tough times, and great to be reflective and thankful during the good times.
Self-compassion in leadership is a journey
Early in my leadership, I was extremely hard on myself and how I led others. If my leader came in and gave me some needed criticism and feedback, it would wreck me. The feedback was the right thing, but I would not give myself the same opportunities to learn and grow through missed expectations that I allowed for others. I’m certainly much better about it today. Criticism doesn’t destroy my day like it used to. That doesn’t mean that I have it all figured out or have it totally under control. I still get frustrated with myself when I shouldn’t and I push my body too far instead of giving it the rest it needs.
Nobody’s perfect. Know that your self-compassion is a journey and not a destination. You’ll have off moments and days just like the rest of us. Understand that it’s a part of your growth process and be intentional in mindfulness and self-kindness when you hit those challenging moments.
Your people need and deserve your care and compassion. Give yourself the same level of care that you do others so that you can be and more effective leader, friend, and family member.
Make a better tomorrow.