Importance of Self-Acceptance
Are you fully aware of the self-narrative you have developed that may be holding you back? If you are aware, do you know how to change it?
Not everyone is able to self-coach. Why? Because we all have blind spots and they are only revealed to us through feedback. The kind of feedback that leads to deep-seated change is often best offered by an impartial partner who is non-judgemental, compassionate and challenging; wholly focused on your growth and development.
* John had spent most of his adult life struggling with traumatic events; the early death of his father being the most life changing. Now in his late 50s and approaching retirement he has come for coaching because he ‘just can’t live with it anymore’. The IT, that John has resolved to finally face is his own internal self-critic. The one that has developed a narrative telling him that he is undeserving of his success and that he is a fraud.
Now, I am not talking about that inner voice that gives you a mild ticking off when you fall in some way below the internal standards you set for yourself. That inner voice is a healthy sign of self-management and self-regulation. The observer self, the best self that we nurture as responsible adults.
John would describe his inner voice as brutal, harsh; if it were a colour that colour would be red; the volume is loud, intrusive and utterly destructive to his sense of self-worth. He is also aware of having chosen to listen to it, even as a child, over the external voice of praise coming from his mother. His mother he remembers as a positive, affirmative influence; but it was not her voice that he internalised. As a team leader while he is caring and nurturing of others he is harsh and unforgiving of himself. It discolours his life and is exhausting him.
When coaching it is not necessary to determine why John chose to listen to his harsh inner critic over the more positive voices around him. What is important is his decision to change that now.
Here are the three key steps John and I worked through to transform his relationship to himself.
Establishing the current reality for John and his motivation toward change:
John feels stifled, withered and stunted by his way of talking to himself. In his eyes, this impairs his performance at work leading to procrastination and indecisiveness. He is not living to his full potential.
Challenging John’s view of his current reality- What in your life is Golden?
Listening to John I hear all the negatives that are his distorted view of himself and his reality. So to challenge this and bring his strengths into the light I asked- What in your life is golden? After a pause, he communicates freely the success he feels he has made of fatherhood, his creativity, and his love of helping others. I feedback to him the total change in demeanour between John when talking about his ‘negatives’ and John when talking about his ‘positives’.
Hearing this he is surprised. He had been blind to the outward manifestations of his internal state and mindset. However, becoming sensitive to these help with the next stage. I ask him to turn his attention to the difference he felt when talking about what was golden. He noticed the change in energy, he felt more engaged and his words flowed with ease. This was the self he wanted to be more often.
Mindful – Awareness and Acceptance
During the next few weeks, John agrees to practice catching the negative thoughts as they arise, and instead of holding on to them, to image them as clouds which either pass on by or which dissolve into thin air. The key principle here is to practice acceptance of the thoughts rather than to do battle with them. To say, “This is what I am thinking, but it is only a thought, it is not reality, let it go. Breath into this and let the thought drift away on your out breath.” Being aware that his negative mindset affects the tone and pitch of his voice, his facial expressions and his body language (sitting up straight or slumped in the chair) also helped to alert him to changes in his internal state.
Mindful awareness and acceptance are the foundations for the other key principle of mindfulness which is self-compassion. When you have a harsh inner critic, trying to consciously reframe that voice can be counterproductive. To begin with, John found that in paying more attention to what his inner critic was saying to made him feel even more de-motivated. He was more aware of all the things he had not done and trying to say positive things about himself did not work. He was running away from acceptance by trying to replace the negative with positive thoughts.
But with persistence and over time he found that the negative thoughts dissipated more quickly and then started to come less frequently when he stopped fighting them. He did not have to consciously replace a less negative thought with a more positive thought he just began to notice the positive things that were there before him more. As his holding onto the negative voice decreased, so the space for more positive ways of relating to himself opened up. From never being able to say, ‘I have done this well’ John can now comfortably say’ This is good enough!’ and for him, that is a transformation.
In our last session together John said,” I feel that I have come a long way. There is less negativity in my head and I have got some skills to manage myself better. I feel happy, even though I now there is still stuff to work on I feel that I can do that myself now.”
So I fulfil my purpose. First to be a space of safety, then to be a source of challenge- what does not challenge you will not change you. And then to hand the process of continuing change and growth back over to my client. Ths is success.
*Real names are changed to protect client confidentiality.
If you have considered engaging an Executive Life Coach but something has held you back why not give it a try by booking a no obligation free consultation/coaching session with me?
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