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What does self-compassion have to do with confidence?
We talked a little bit last week about re-defining failure, and I wanted to explain what I mean by that – and why I feel so strongly about it.
And I think that’s going to help answer our question.
We’ve said before that “failure” is just another way of saying practice. Whenever I’m writing a post or an episode, I almost always put the word – failure – in quotes. That’s because, for the most part, I don’t believe that failure actually exists.
But we don’t want to eliminate the discussion on failure completely.
When I say redefine failure, my hope is to take a word that usually means “not enough” or “no coming back” and talk about it enough, be vulnerable enough with our failure, to change its perception and connotation.
Especially on an individual level, but also to give permission to each other to do the same thing. To claim “failure” as “progress” and “learning” and “practice” and wear it confidently.
If we can do that, our foundation for growth becomes self-compassion and confidence and purpose – rather than unattainable perfection, or a belief that we are inherently lacking.
So, today, we want to introduce 4 of our favorite tools for re-defining failure, stopping that shame, and choosing powerful self-compassion instead.
#1: “I’m willing to get it wrong.”
A couple of our tools today are phrases, and this is one of our favorites: “I’m willing to get it wrong… in order to get it right.”
So many of us experience failure as a one-step-forward-two-steps-back approach. We would argue that each step is progress, because it’s a learning experience!
When you experience a failure as a building block, you’re learning, you’re filling in the gaps, and you’re okay with taking it slow. You understand that you have to be willing to get it wrong in order to get it right.
#2: Identify the message & the messenger.
We talk a lot on here about the message that you are enough. But, when it comes to self-compassion, it might also be helpful to understand the opposing force.
The destructive message that “you are not enough”, usually comes with an enticement of some sort, but if you think about it, the enticement isn’t really for you.
- All or Nothing Thinking Either you want to quit, because it’s a lot of work to be perfect, and you genuinely need the break!
- External Validation Or someone else has something to gain by your quitting and tears you down accordingly.
- Justification Or, you’re upset that you keep “failing” and that seems to be the only explanation for your actions.
- Hopelessness Or, it’s a message that you honestly believe – whether because you’ve said it enough times to yourself to internalize it, or maybe because of an underlying struggle with your mental health – but a feeling of hopelessness sets in.
In all of these cases, the message is coming from an opposing force.
As a Christian, I believe the message that you are not enough can only come from Satan. Even if he tries to disguise it as condemnation from God, as a result of your personal failures, or as a reaction to what someone else thinks.
Regardless of the disguise, the message that you are not enough is designed to stop your progress.
Identifying the messenger as someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart, enables you to start looking at thoughts that are going to serve you, because you know that these thoughts – Satan’s message – is designed with the express purpose to serve him, not you.
So, let’s take the scenarios we mentioned and break them down.
- Wanting to be perfect and needing a break: Satan wants you to believe that if you can’t be perfect, then it’s not worth trying. He knows you can’t do it all – and he is going to send the message that you must do it all. He knows, in the words of Monica Packer, that “something is better than all or nothing”, and he’s hoping you don’t figure it out.
- Someone else is hoping for you to fail: Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. And yet, the adversary tries to send the message that you require external validation and approval in order to be of worth. He doesn’t want you to know that your worth is inherent & that your belief in that inherent worth is super powerful, regardless of anyone else’s opinion.
- Anger at yourself (or at God) that you keep getting it wrong: Trying to explain or justify your mistakes shows a lack of personal responsibility. When you mess up and you say, that’s just the way I am – I’m just not good enough, Satan is trying to convince you that acting in alignment with your purpose and your values is supposed to be easy. And if it isn’t easy, then it’s just you. He knows that work, restitution, and working through hard feelings is going to be required. But, if he can convince you that it isn’t worth the work, then he wins!
- Lastly, hopelessness: This one is not easy. I think the biggest message here is that Satan wants you to keep your deep doubt of your worth to yourself. If he can make asking for help seem like “less than”, then he can continue to reinforce your self-doubt without obstruction. There is so much good and unique and needed about exactly you. You serve a purpose that no one else can serve, and if he can keep you doubting that purpose, he wins.
In all of these cases, if you can change your definition of failure to: “learning” “progress” “practice” “that’s a building block”, then these messages don’t make sense any more!
Start to spot the lies, and you can, accordingly, start to tell yourself the truth.
#3: Change your perspective to look for the good, too.
We’ve used the analogy of a half-filled cup before. Whether you see the cup as half-full or half-empty, both are true, though one may be more optimistic than another.
When you are building a foundation of self-compassion, the same concept comes into play. If you take a negative thought, “I’m not good at public speaking” for example, and turn it into “I never feel nervous speaking in a public setting”, all sorts of alarms go off in your head.
We can spot inauthenticity in ourselves from a mile away.
But, what happens if you take the thought “I’m not good at public speaking” and turn it into “I can speak in public, and I’ll survive.” or “The more I practice public speaking, the better I will be.”?
All are true, or feel true in the moment, rather, but the latter frames lay a foundation for self-compassion, where the former does not.
When it comes to looking for the good, too, this is why the whole “tell yourself three positive things for every one negative thing you say about yourself” thing works. You are not saying there isn’t anything negative to deal with. You aren’t lying.
You are just choosing to focus on the truths that are going to serve you.
Ignoring hard feelings about your personal weaknesses keeps you from facing, resolving, and overcoming those weaknesses. But don’t invite your weaknesses for tea either. Notice the progress, notice the strengths, learn from your shortcomings, and use what you learn to help you add those building blocks.
#4: “Now what?”
This last principle is also a phrase, and this is one I use on probably a daily basis.
Shame is maybe one of the biggest trials I’ve ever experienced. I worry I’m not a good enough mom or wife or human.
Sometimes, it’s because of my mistakes and regrets, or just lack of forward momentum, or falling into some of the comparison traps we mentioned earlier this month… But shame is HARD.
I have learned, for me, the fastest way out of shame is action. Not hustling for my worth, because worth is not earned; it’s inherent.
But, when I’m sitting with a thought that – “I didn’t play with my kids enough today. I wish I had just put down my phone.” Or “I feel sick to my stomach because I overate.” Or “I watch too much TV.” – those thoughts can go two ways.
Brene Brown teaches that guilt is “I did something bad” and shame is “I am bad”.
If I sit with those thoughts for too long, that guilt easily turns to shame (I’m pretty sure my neuro-pathways are already conditioned to make that jump).
Before that happens, I simply say, “I didn’t play with my kids enough today.” “I didn’t listen to my body really well today” “I wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be today”…. “NOW WHAT?”
Failure is part of the process, you guys. I can’t go back in time; I can only move forward.
Maybe I need to apologize or try again or sit down and work out whatever takeaway I need to learn from this experience. Maybe I am going to learn how to love better or how to just let go, because sometimes that is what’s required of us.
But detours are just detours if we let them be, not dead-ends. Practice is progress, not failure. The power of consistency means that we will eventually get it right… and then wrong again… and then right again!! If we KEEP SHOWING UP.
And that’s what “Now what?” looks like. It empowers you to keep showing up.
So keep going, friends. It isn’t easy, but you are honestly doing a great job – and when you’re not, that’s part of it, too.
One-Liner: The secret to self-compassion is accepting that failure is a good thing, it’s a normal thing, and it’s part of the learning process.
Journal Prompt: Make a list of four negative thoughts that you find in your self-talk and reframe each one with each of these points. “I’m willing to get it wrong.” Identify the messenger. Look for the good, too. and “Now what?” And the next time those thoughts come up, use your re-frame!
❤ Jenny and Joe