This is me at age around age 12…basically the same age as my son is today.
This girl (like most kids at this age) struggled with not feeling enough, wanting to belong and be liked, feeling like an imposter, waiting for the other shoe to drop, and desperately trying to prove herself hoping that would settle the inner narrative and help her feel like she was worthy and loveable.
If you’ve read any of my books, blogs, social media posts or have been to any of my talks, you know by now that the drive to prove myself led to many accomplishments – which I’m incredibly proud of. And, the drive has its dark side and led to many challenges – including causing me illness on more than one occasion, almost eroding my marriage at one point, and leading to the need for a big reset with my son (read about that valuable lesson here). We spend an enormous amount of energy trying to hid our inadequacies, avoid feeling shame and trying to makeup for a faulty narrative we created in childhood.
As kids, our brains download programming by observing our surroundings; we learn the “rules of the road” for what is and isn’t acceptable. The problem is that most of this programming is fundamentally flawed, negative and self-sabotaging; and it’s still running the show. That ~10-year old version of ourselves is in the driver’s seat in our adult life way more than we realize. In fact, most of our reactions to present day are run by this version of ourselves. We’re not reacting as an enlightened, evolved adult version of ourselves; we’re reacting as the scared, flawed, not-enough childhood version of ourselves.
We have to recognize and normalize this human experience, make peace with that and do the Messy Middle work so that our current, more courageous self can take over instead; I hate to break it to you, but there isn’t a short-cut to rewriting our faulty programming. But it’s absolutely necessary!
As a start, we can work to give ourselves extra grace, start believing we are enough just as we are (and, at the same time can be working to be better), and practice being kinder and gentler to ourselves. Self-compassion is CRITICAL to showing up as a leader in our lives. We have to talk to ourselves like we’d talk to someone we love – and would want our childhood self to hear.
I can’t look at this picture and say the things to this girl that I sometimes still say to myself. I want to tell her: “you are enough; you’re more than your accomplishments; you’re worthy and loveable just as you are; trust in who you are, and let your sparkle shine.” When we’re in the mode of beating up on ourselves, we can stop and think about what our 10-year old self needs to hear right now; after all, that’s probably who’s actually in the driver’s seat and behind the self-judgement.
Putting This Into Practice In Your Life
- What unhelpful self-talk do you have today?
- Could you look at a picture of you from when you were a kid and say those nasty things to that precious human?
- What did/does your child self need to hear right now?
- What can you say to yourself instead that would be more forgiving, supportive and helpful?
Self-compassion is an ongoing practice that takes awareness, reflection and intentional action. It’s also an act of service and leadership. When we can be kinder and gentler to ourselves, it becomes easier to extend grace to others; after all, we’re all perfectly imperfect and flawed.
Stay brave. Stay human. Stay safe. And never dull your sparkle!