As leaders, we can show compassion towards others, offering them a listening ear, thoughtful questioning and unfaltering support. Yet how often do we offer this level of compassion to ourselves?
Being a leader requires a generous dose of compassion mixed with reality. We are responsive to the ever-shifting pulse of the needs of our community, yet can be so very hard on ourselves.
We are indoctrinated against self-compassion. We are taught that to show self-compassion equates to self indulgence.
In her research on self-compassion, Kristen Neff states
I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be”
As leaders we can be our own worst enemy. This means that one can forget to show compassion towards oneself.
Self compassion starts from within: nurturing your own wairua (soul/spirit), tinana (mental and emotional wellbeing), hinengaro (physical wellbeing) and whānau (connections and sense of belonging). Mason Durie speaks of this in his Whare Tapa Whā model of hauora.
So what can be immediately done if you suspect you are a leader who needs to build a little self-compassion? Below are some tips.
Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment.
Seeing a mistake as a learning opportunity, rather than definitive failure is pivotal to self-kindness over self-judgement. It is all too easy to beat-yourself-up when you make a mistake, to find error, to self-flagellate. Looking for what you did do well and differentiating fact from fiction/emotion is an important step towards self-kindness.
Common humanity vs. Isolation.
Knowing you are not alone is key in understanding that you are a communal part of humanity, rather than an island. Understanding that others too may be experiencing similar experiences is important in knowing that this may be part of a shared human experience.
As leaders this involves keeping connected with your wider professional community. Making and taking time to either connect virtually or face to face with colleagues is important to your wellbeing. Knowing that you are not alone can lessen the need to see yourself as the only one experiencing what you are.
Mindfulness vs. Over-identification.
There can be times as leaders when things can become all-encompassing. If unchecked this can lead to over-identifying with negative thoughts and emotions. This can lead to sleepless nights, worry and ill-health. Self-compassion requires that you are able to view your emotions and thoughts from a third-person perspective. That you are able to hold them at arm’s length and observe them with curiosity. You are able to ask yourself “Is this true? What are the facts? What are alternative viewpoints?” Seeking dialogue from a trusted colleague may also be helpful at this time.
Want to know how self-compassionate you might be? Take this quiz to gain an insight into areas for self-development.
Please note this is a platform for awareness, not a scientific analysis.