Last week I wrote about how sometimes it is more important to be kind than it is to be right when we are interacting with important people in our lives. But like most things, there are multiple facets of the topic. I think it is important to look at another facet of this issue because it is something many of us fail to put into practice in our lives. I’m talking about giving the same kindness to the most important person in our own life…ourselves.
It is something I see again and again. As much as we sometimes fail to be compassionate with others it is astounding how often we fail to be compassionate with ourselves. We often hold ourselves to impossibly high standards. We don’t believe we should be allowed to fail or make mistakes.
When we don’t meet those standards it often isn’t pretty. There are a couple of common scenarios that play out. Really creative people can sometimes even manage to really do a double whammy and integrate portions of both!
One scenario is simply to beat ourselves up. We tell ourselves what a failure we are, how we can’t do anything right, how we aren’t deserving. Those feelings of worthlessness and shame can build and build as we repeat the cycle of making mistakes or falling short and then criticizing ourselves.
Sometimes those words we tell ourselves didn’t originate from us. They may be words we heard from parents or teachers or significant others…anyone who’s opinion carried weight with us. And now we do the work for them. Instead of being kind we just carry on judging ourselves about not being right.
The other way it plays out is that we so need to be right that we start justifying our actions to prove we were right…even when we weren’t. We start creating our own reality that explains our actions, often to the degree that our logic becomes so convoluted that our decision making just gets worse and worse. And, it interferes with how others interact with us because their version of reality is so different than ours.
Of course the irony is that our desire to be right, to be perfect, causes us be become less and less so. And we will make mistakes and not be right. After all, we are human. The very pressure we put on ourselves to do it right actually pushes us towards not being right. But that’s certainly not an unusual pattern. We too often fail to see how our best intentions bring about the very result we are trying to avoid.
So we can do the very thing we should do with others. Be compassionate with ourselves. When we are wrong or make mistakes, accept it as part of who we are…imperfect human beings. Instead of beating ourselves up or going to bizarre extremes to deny our mistakes, just be kind. Know that mistakes happen and that we can actually learn from them. Just watch, I bet being kind to yourself will feel a lot better. And, with the pressure off, it may just lead to being wrong less often…just what you wanted in the first place!