As leaders, our inner voice is often our most critical influence. We are taught from a young age to be kind and quick to forgive others. Extending grace to ourselves seems to be a completely different story.
In a world that says, “Hustle. Do the most. Be the best,” we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have it all together. When we don’t meet our own expectations, the pressure builds and releases in the form of harsh self-criticism.
It’s hard to forgive yourself for your own mistakes, perhaps because you were never taught how to. Or maybe you don’t give yourself grace because you’re a perfectionist; you know the ins and outs of your shortcomings and mercy feels disingenuous. Whatever the case may be, the vast majority of leaders struggle with the concept of forgiving themselves.
But why does it matter? Why should you strive for forgiveness and grace in your own self-talk?
It’s impossible to experience freedom if you’re bound in the shackles of your mistakes— and ultimately, neglecting to extend grace to yourself will limit your ability to serve others. Being unkind to yourself serves no purpose. In fact, grudges you hold (even against yourself) take up negative space in your mind and distract you from performing at your best.
Studies are consistently showing that success is directly related to an individual’s ability to fight self-criticism and practice compassion. Take it from the scientists at Stanford Medicine,
“We mistakenly think that being competitive and pushing ourselves hard is required for success. Research, however, is proving these theories wrong. Most of us don’t stop to consider whether our self-critical and competitive attitude are helping us achieve our goals. We don’t realize that they are actually standing in our way. Scientific data shows that self-criticism makes us weaker in the face of failure, more emotional, and less likely to assimilate lessons from our failures. Studies are finding that there is a far better alternative to self-criticism: self-compassion.”
Less likely to assimilate lessons from our failures.
When we understand that failure is a normal part of the human experience, we allow ourselves the freedom to grow and learn through our errors. Mistakes are inevitable and often painful, but they provide a unique opportunity for growth in wisdom, compassion, and empathy. When we identify and meet our own flaws with grace (and understand how much we really need), it becomes easier to forgive and extend that grace to others. Recognizing where things went wrong and how you could have acted differently brings great wisdom, often more powerful and memorable than success.
“Remember this journey is for your benefit, not for beating up on yourself. We may never change the past, it is done!” -April Ballestero, Slaying the Onion
Choose compassion over criticism when talking to yourself. Face your failures head-on and greet them with grace.
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