In conversation with my supervisor yesterday, I realised I was slipping into Impostor Syndrome mode – feeling not good enough as a coach and fearing being ‘found out’. Interesting, given the number of clients I work on this with, and my recent posting on the subject!
If you, too, find it easier to criticise rather than praise yourself, and find you need the approval of others, then perhaps you are also ‘externally referencing’ yourself. I’ll explain..
Whenever you criticise yourself or beat yourself up for something you’ve done, or not done, your self-esteem and self belief takes another hit. You then need a ‘top up’ of approval and praise from others to help you function again. Of course, if you receive negative feedback from others, you react very badly because you have no inner resources to deal with it. Any external praise doesn’t last long. You’re either straight back into beating yourself up as soon as you get even the slightest thing wrong, or you feel you haven’t matched up to your (doubtless very high) expectations of yourself. So then you need external praise even more. Without their praise you feel incomplete; not a whole person.
It doesn’t matter how much praise you receive from others, though, it will never be enough. Your only validity comes from their praise, and there will never be anyone around enough of the time, giving enough praise, to stand up to your own well-developed ability to knock yourself back down again. And so the cycle continues.
What if it doesn’t have to be like that? What if, instead, you are already all you need to be? You are already doing the best you can, and everything you do is either an opportunity for praising yourself or for reflection and learning (rather than criticism or judgement) so you just do even better next time. You then move from externally referencing to internally referencing yourself.
It’s a choice thing. If something feels missing in your life, and you’re constantly beating yourself up or seeking the approval of others, the bit that’s missing is probably YOU. You can choose to change this. You can choose to let go of beating yourself up (which doesn’t get you anywhere, does it?) You can choose, instead, to be all you’re meant to be already, letting your best self out and allowing it to shine in a climate of self praise, rather than the barren territory of criticism and thirst for external approval.
There’s a lovely poem by Alan Cohen about this called Valuing You. Have a read, and then perhaps choose to be your own best supporter and to end all self-criticism. It’ll be hard work, because you’ve probably been externally referencing yourself for a long while. But it will be a journey worth making.
So, I’m off to reflect on my coaching, to give myself a pat on the back for the good bits, and to learn from, and seek to improve, the bits I felt I could do better.
What about you?