Self Compassion: What Does Your Internal Voice Sound Like?

A few weeks ago, I did a 'horrible' thing. As soon as I realized it, my heart started pounding, my mind started racing and my whole body tensed up. What was this 'horrible' thing, you wonder?

I realized I was 10 minutes late for a client - I had mistaken the time and thought it started 15 minutes later. 

OK, that might not seem that 'horrible' to you, but my mind obviously told me something different. I say obviously because of the physical response my body had to this realization. 

From Perfection to Being Human

You'll probably guess by that confession, that in the area of punctuality, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. It's important for me to be punctual and I'm usually able to honor this.

But as you and I know, mistakes happen.

When I realized my mistake, I let my client know. Unfortunately, she was having technology issues so we weren't able to connect for a while before I knew all was well and I was able to explain the situation.

I paid close attention to my mind - how it questioned and blamed me, how it kept returning to the same loop - how did this happen, what will the client think of me...? My mind didn't want to let it go, even though I knew those thoughts were not serving me.

It was fascinating because just a few hours earlier, I had a conversation with another client about self compassion. As a manager, she talked about wanting to inspire and empower her team members. I could hear the care and thoughtfulness she put into her conversations with these colleagues. I could hear how encouraging she was in her delivery.

And then the discussion turned to how she speaks to herself. She said, "Oh, the voice I use for myself is totally different than the one I use for others." She decided this would be a great exploration in the next weeks - to be the researcher/detective when it comes to the voice she uses for herself.

I remember years ago when I started really noticing my own internal voice. Just like my client, the voice I used for myself wasn't one I would ever use with someone else.

At that time, my internal voice was harsh and critical. 

Slowly, I began shifting it and these days, if you heard my voice for me, you'd often hear gentle encouragement and a softness I might use for a child.

However, there are still areas where those old pathways are strong - like when I make a 'mistake' I think I shouldn't have made, just like the being-late example above.

Given all the time and years I've put into changing my own internal voice, it doesn't surprise me that this is an area where a lot of my clients feel challenged. 

Sometimes they even question the idea of self compassion. They wonder what will happen if they stop using that 'harsh' voice that they say motivates them to push and move forward.

I always challenge this reasoning and ask: "what do you respond better to...a loud critical voice telling you push, push, push or a gentler encouraging voice reminding you why something is important to you?"

Compassion for Others & Self

As a coach, I see a huge part of my role to be the witness - the person who is able to see where an individual started and all the small things they have done differently over a period of time. 

I have the privilege of being able to see this and point this out and we can celebrate together. Sometimes, when I acknowledge a shift, they remind me they aren't 'there' yet, that they still have a long way to go.

I always remind them we're not going for perfection. The goal will always be more self awareness - more understanding of where we are and where we'd like to be and go. The more we understand ourselves, the more able we are to see and hear those thoughts, behaviors and actions that take us off track.

I see the gifts of my 'horrible' mistake those weeks ago. 

It reminded me of how I get to continue to lean into the journey of self compassion. Just as I do with my clients, this experience gave me the eyes to see how far I've come with my own practice of self compassion.

I was also able to get some distance to my thoughts in the moment, which is always a gift. I was able to listen to that voice and really hear it and to feel the old familiar pattern and know it wasn't where I wanted to stay.

As I sit in the space of compassion in each session with my clients - really allowing them to be wherever they are on the journey and finding ways to support them in more awareness - I am reminded how much of this compassion I can continue to share with myself on an even more regular basis.

There's no 'there' to reach; there's just more learning and discovery to be had.

And now I'll shift to you with a few questions:

- Where are you on your own Self Compassion journey?

- What does your internal voice sound like most of the time? What would you like it to sound like?

- When do you most need to lean into Self Compassion these days?

I invite you to explore and see what new gems you might discover along the way. 

If you'd like to explore Self Compassion more, is a great resource for exercises, practices and even an assessment.

As always, enjoy the journey and the exploration.


Janette image





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