I have been doing more and more coaching with my colleagues in recent months at Mint Group SA around their self-esteem and how they view their contributions towards the success of the business. Many people, influenced by the constant fear of COVID-19, as well as the severe stresses brought on by the impact of Level 4 (now 3) restrictions, have sunk to new levels of self-doubt and have pushed (or been pushed) themselves further down the rung of self-care. This impacts life in many ways, but I want to focus specifically on how it does so in the workplace.
How self-esteem can impact your performance
Employees with low or skewed self-esteem have lower levels of self-compassion and consequently value themselves far less. This leads to numerous damaging behaviors such as over-working, extensive procrastination, disintegrating communication, and poor teamwork, to name a few. And Subsequently, the consequences of these behaviors can be hugely detrimental to an employee’s organizational experience, as well as how they are perceived by their colleagues and leadership. As you can rightly assume, this feeds a vicious cycle of depleting an already low self-perception and compounding the lack of self-love with further shame and guilt.
Self-compassion and kindness
I recently completed a Dare to Lead program, based on the incredible work and teachings of Brené Brown and facilitated by a very talented South African coach named Caryn Conidaris. The program was incredibly insightful and gave us practical tools to utilize., For me, the most profound concept I learned along with the fourteen other participants, was that of self-compassion and self-love. I, like most of you, have been conditioned through years of social, religious, educational, familial, and cultural norms to regard self-love as a sign of “being full of myself” and a cardinal sin, for the good person who puts everyone else before them at all costs. Caryn introduced us to Dr. Kristin Neff, an academic and Educational Psychology Professor who said, “With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give a good friend.”
How to cancel the critic in you: Practicing self-love and becoming your biggest supporter
This concept brought many of us on the course to tears, as we realized that so few of us, were our own supporters. We have always sought external validation for our plans and achievements, and the unreliability of receiving this, therefore, influenced our state of mind and the view we held of our self-worth. I realized many of us were in the same situation and it is very clear that the sheer exhaustion of relying on external sources to determine your value, is a massive contributing factor towards stress and mental health.
I have subsequently worked very hard on improving my relationship with myself and focusing on becoming my own biggest supporter and partner, instead of critic and judge. I can already see the benefits in my parenting, my friendships, my family relationships, my work performance, and my personal life. And now, I am sharing this with my colleagues, because a company filled with people who are practicing self-love and self-compassion, will be a happy and productive company!
How you speak to yourself, matters
Working with employees to improve their self-love and link their personal values to their own beliefs, as opposed to external influences and dependencies, not only assists them with their personal development and continued growth within a career but also enhances how they view themselves in relation to their role and the organization. Work becomes an outcome of your performance rather than a reflection of who you are, so successes and failures can be attributed to behavior, and not to you as a person.
If a project does not finish on time, it is not because “I am so slow, useless, and/or incompetent” but rather your dialogue should change to, “What could I have done differently or better with my team or the client, to prevent this failure?” Redirecting the dialogue to the incident itself, as opposed to yourself me removes the self-deprecation commentary and thought patterns that we very often engage in.
Stepping into your power
Enabling employees to identify and then step into their personal values in the workplace and coaching them on how to practice self-compassion, will go a long way. Especially, towards increasing role satisfaction and an improved balance between work, personal and social, and self-care obligations. Someone who is aware of themselves and can determine their value from their own perspective, rather than an external one, is someone who is spending their energy wisely and has focus and energy. In my opinion and from my own experience, this makes for a happy and productive person, which in turn makes for a happy and productive organization.