Communicating with confidence

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Me, my best friend

Do your colleagues and friends know how to find you when they are in distress?
Can they count on you for support and some gentle words?
But, how caring and loving are you towards yourself?

Big fat elephant, you can’t wear this bathing suit…Or when you start looking for a job…I will never manage to find a job. Or when you do try, but fail….: Oh my gosh, can’t you do anything good?

It strikes me that many of us – especially women – are far more caring to others – children, husband, family and friends – than to ourselves. If we listen very carefully to our inner monologues, it is shocking to hear WHAT we are telling ourselves and HOW. The tune… We’re so used to bashing ourselves.

And in a way it’s not surprising. In our society we’re taught that being hard on ourselves and ashamed of everything from our actions to our looks gets results.

Self-criticism is a preferred path to success. But, when this self-criticism overtakes, we end up feeling anxious, stressed and disconnected to ourselves.

Turn it around. I’m talking about self-compassion.

Instead of just ignoring your pain with a ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, you stop to tell yourself “This is really difficult right now”, and ask how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment. In my work as a lawyer in family law it was this self-kindness that helped clients to get through such a tough time as a divorce.

Yesterday I was sitting in my garden with my dad looking at the colourful autumn leaves in the trees. My eldest daughter was muttering to herself. It was my dad who said: “Hey little girl. Don’t you know the song: “Niet kniezen, niet zeuren, Da’s hartstikke fout. Vergeet niet te leven, Want straks ben je oud”. (English: Don’t mope, don’t whine, that’s so wrong. Don’t forget to live, before you know you’re old”. I smiled and thought about all those evenings celebrating Carnival in the pub in my home town in Holland and singing this song loudly. It was only just now, that I suddenly realised what my dad was actually singing. And, that made me feel lighter again.

Caring for others. We practice year in year out and we’re good at it. So, we can use it to be best friend to ourselves Self compassion, a new chapter?

Some tips for every day:

1. Recognize your inner self-judge. How many times do you judge yourself? What do you tell yourself? What kind of demands do you give yourself?

2. Which voices do you recognize? Your parents, your brothers or sisters, society?

3. Just ask yourself: what makes me act like this? Am I tired? Am I feeling stressed?

4. Ask yourself: what do I feel and do I need that right now? Please don’t resist (very important)

5. Discover what brings you happiness and calms you: to watch your favourite tv programme, to go for a walk, candles/music/book, fruit/chocolate, a hot bath.

Carmen's letters (October)