I was reading an article in the most recent issue of Fast Company where Burberry’s former CEO, Angela Ahrendts said, “Empathy is one of the greatest creators of energy.” You might have it for your friends, family and loved ones but if you’re task-oriented, type-A or like to set your goals high, its not necessarily your strong suit. It’s definitely a term that comes up with greater frequency in the business community and maybe some people are paying attention, but are you?
Let me ask you something. Do you scrutinize yourself to the point of feeling like you can’t get things just so or pretty close to perfection that you’re exhausted by trying? As we ease into the New Year, what if we took it a little easier on ourselves? A little less of all the things that create mental noise inhibiting our creativity, joy, growth and the space to explore new ways of thinking? Cutting yourself some slack is more easily said than practiced. (Obviously, if you’re a slacker, none of this really applies to you.) I’m writing this post to myself in a way, to my female peers that I went to business school with and all of the working women in my life (that includes the mommas…they work harder than most and the hours are endless). I’m sure that this applies to many a man, but I’m often surprised by how hard we are on ourselves as women. Ultimately, who needs a bad boss if you’re willing to be your own worst critic?
I’m not going to delve into the scientific jargon that justifies why we do it but instead give you my common sense explanation. I think we’re scared of failure, in fewer cases success, or some other rendition of fear that creates the misunderstanding that by demanding a lot of ourselves, is the only way to achieve success. Maybe those who parented us imbued this belief, or somewhere along the line, we taught ourselves. Either way, it’s too hard a path to take and diminishes your energy and joy. I know it does mine to the point that I’m left feeling that nothing I do is good enough. There’s a definite emptiness that comes with that sort of thinking and it feels like the less wise version of myself. Nothing like going back to an empty well over and over again to quench your emotional thirst. Just writing about it makes me cringe.
While this way of being is not new to me, what am I going to do about it? I’m going to try to be aware of what I’m doing and how it makes me feel. It’s not just emotional but also takes on a physiological manifestation in the form of tight shoulders, backaches, headaches, tight facial muscles and in my case, a twitching left eye that is beyond annoying when I’m kerning type. What’s equally worse is that it not only effects me, but also has an affect on everyone that encounters me in my life. Shouldn’t I be giving the world the best version of myself, versus the uptight, anxious and critical me? I think so. You know why? Because not only do they deserve it, but so do I.
In an effort to not get overly heady about this, I’m going to leave you with a quote by Caroline Myss, who wrote a book called Sacred Contracts. She says that “Every day we are either giving away power or giving ourselves power,” which applies to every idea, action and transaction that we have. Each day, you have choice and so do I, hopefully we can lace it with as much empathy as possible.