I continue to grapple with how to “sell” the idea that high performance starts “at home.” With the practice of putting ourselves first more often than not. Prioritising and valuing—even just considering ourselves—more often. I resonate with this quote from author Brianna Wiest:
True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake;
it is making the choice to build the kind of life
that you don’t have to regularly escape from.
There are all sorts of things we can do, but the most important? Valuing ourselves - our minds, our spirits, and our bodies - enough to keep them front of mind on a regular basis. Making our life more oriented to our own care. Considering ourselves, checking in with ourselves—with compassion, valuing our own opinions, and taking self-reflective action more often.
The resistance to the idea takes different forms, but generally can be distilled to this:
It never occurred to me
I don’t deserve it
I learned early on to take care of others first
It’s all about the “stiff upper lip.” Just carry on and don’t make a fuss.
It seems selfish
Who has the time?
And the most common concern for high achievers?
If I “let myself off the hook” like that, I will lose my edge and stop trying. [Spoiler alert, this never happens. Yet the fear is strong.]
Why is self-compassion as an expression of self-care so damned important? Here’s why.
Compassion, the root, connecting emotion underlying self-compassion, is how we evolved to survive. Keeping in mind its definition, to suffer with, compassion is how we connected with both those we love, as well as those we were in community with. Without those bonds of compassion - the urge to support and comfort others who were suffering - our species would have been significantly less resilient and less likely to survive.
Babies literally fail to thrive without compassion. Having someone who mirrors and empathises with your suffering comforts you, tells you that you are valued and worthwhile, and teaches you to trust how you are feeling. How can compassion directed inward be any less vital?
Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have. [Quote by British Psychologist, Robert Holden]. Way more than the other way around. When we are secure and happy with ourselves, we are more prone to see the world through this lens. Interestingly, the research in this space suggests that compassion and self-compassion have evolved for different reasons. Compassion may have evolved more for social well-being, while self-compassion (which targets and offsets self-judgment) has a greater direct impact on personal well-being. Self-compassion helps us feel better as individuals, while compassion helps sustain healthy relationships. That being true, it makes sense that feeling better inside sustains our ability to promote care and well-being in all our relationships. As we learn to judge ourselves less, we bring that awareness and sensitivity into our relationships. It certainly makes things easier.
High performance is (almost) all about relationship. I was recently speaking to people working in the real estate sector. Every single person in the room agreed that they initially thought, when starting their job, that it was about, well, real estate - houses, buildings, apartments, condos, dwellings. When of course, they all as quickly agreed, it is not really about the real estate at all. It’s about people.
To be competent is to know building codes and legal contract minutiae. To be great is to know and work well with people. It’s about persuading sellers to list their properties with me. It’s about building trust, offering candid and helpful advice, being patient, and nurturing great working relationships. It’s about befriending tenants and landlords before the tough conversations about the leaky roof or the late rental payments. Getting the people part right makes the real estate part easier.
Compassion helps us relate to others. Self-compassion gives us the strength to do so more sustainably by caring for ourselves not only first but regularly. It all starts here. More on this next time.