If you’re like many women I meet, you’re probably pretty tough on yourself and often focus more on what you have not done, or did not totally nail, versus all that you have done and did nail!
We women often excel at being their own harshest critics. That’s not to say some men can’t be tough on themselves, but when it comes to second-guessing ourselves and being self-critical, we leave most guys for dead. It explains why, despite our best intentions to ‘forget perfect’ and live our ‘best life’ (and all the other platitudes that pepper our social media feeds), we often feel like we’re falling short. Way short. So short in fact that we’re constantly waiting for other people to cotton on to the fact that we’re ‘not all we’re cracked up to be.’
If you relate in any way, rest assured, you’re not alone.
In fact, you’re in the company of a legion of amazing women – many of them immensely capable and incredibly accomplished – who often feel wrestle with a lingering sense of inadequacy, as though they are not ‘enough’ of something.
Not successful enough… organised enough…confident enough… funny enough… slim enough… talented enough…experienced enough…disciplined enough… thoughtful enough… capable enough… worthy enough.
We live in a society that celebrates perfectionism even as it censures it. Bombarded 24/7 with messages and imagery urging us to step-up, shape-up and live-up to some idealised image of success, brilliance, beauty and ‘got-it-all-togetherness’, it’s little wonder we live with a lingering sense of inadequacy.
Of course, as an intelligent woman, you intellectually understand that no one can be at their all-time best, all the time. Despite this understanding, we are still masters at using our fallen moments as a baton to beat up on ourselves.
If you’re a new mother, double it. If you’re a working mum, double it again.
The best self-help always begins with self-compassion. That is, accepting that no matter how hard we try to be forever generous-spirited or non-judgemental or ‘insert-ideal-virtue-here’, we will inevitably fall short.
Sometimes very short.
And you know what? That is OKAY. In fact it’s more than okay.
Researchers at Columbia University have reported that it’s not self-esteem or optimism that help people handle their challenges best, it’s self-compassion. Counter intuitive as it may sound, when we are kind to ourselves, embracing our fallibility and accepting our flaws, we don’t lower the bar and retreat to our sofa to binge on ice cream or down our favourite bottle of red (though such therapy has its place). In fact, just the opposite! We expand our capacity for action, authentic connection and meaningful contribution.
So if you often feel like you are not measuring up and have grown a little (or lot) jaded by the endless advice on how to be your ‘best self’ – with a bikini body to boot – then my best advice for you (yes, no irony lost here) is to give yourself permission to be fabulous and fallible, innately worthy and wholly imperfect…. all at the same time.
My last 12 months have been extremely fertile ground for embracing my own fallibility and practicing self-compassion. During that time, I’ve packed up my life in Australia – teenage children in tow – and replanted in Singapore. In between packing boxes, navigating new schools and building new networks, I’ve had more than my usual share of fallen and ‘uncomposed’ moments where I’ve felt anything but my ‘best self.’
Yet, as challenging as some days have been (and there’s been many… just ask my husband Andrew whose career landed us here), it’s deepened my belief that our our greatest growth doesn’t flow from the times life is easy or the parts of us that are flawless. Rather, it flows from those parts of us that we’ve been wrestling with our entire life; the vulnerable parts that dial up a notch or ten when plans go awry or life presses in on us (like moving country with teens who don’t want to move).
“It is embracing our raw moments that makes us real, relatable and allows us to forge the most authentic connections with others.”
In the end, we are not so much human beings as we are ‘human becomings.’ It takes our whole life to peel away the layers of fear, self-doubt and self-consciousness to become the full quota of the person we have it within us to become.
Yet it is that in the space of giving up on the idea of ever fully ‘arriving’ that we open a window to a deeper dimension of living. One in which we can savour more moments of genuine wonder and gratitude for the magical mystery tour that is life. One in which we are able to love ourselves for who we truly are, and not the externally constructed prototype of the person we think we are supposed to be.
Just imagine what possibilities could open up for you if, every day (or just as often as you can manage it), you stepped out into the world from the deep knowing that you don’t have to be more or less of anything in order to be ‘enough’ — to be ready enough, good enough, accomplished enough, smart enough, worthy enough.
“Imagine, if instead of continually striving to be the woman you think you should be, you embraced the innate adequacy of the woman you already are?”
As the most pressing problems in our world seem to grow larger, it’s absolutely paramount that we women stop talking ourselves down and step into our power as change-makers.
So if there’s anything you get from reading this article, it’s this.
Trust yourself more, doubt yourself less and own your ‘enoughness.’
As you do, decide you will not wait until ‘one day’ to decide that you are ready enough, deserving enough, brave enough or together enough before you dare to try.
‘One day’ may never come.
Only through being kinder to ourselves can we be liberated of the quenchless need to impress or prove or please.
So back yourself more and get off your own back. Not only because the best self-help is self-compassion, but because when you embrace your humanity and choose to show up as the ‘flawsome’ woman that you are, you give others permission to do the same.
What greater gift is there?
Margie Warrell is a flawsome Premium member of the Business Chicks community as well as an author of four imperfect books including Make Your Mark: A Guidebook for the Brave Hearted. She is also hosting her Live Brave Women’s Weekend in Australia, May 25-27. Business Chicks premium members can access 15% off by entering BizChicks at the check-out. www.LiveBraveWeekend.com