By Cara Moore
As I reflect on 2021, with the pandemic still omnipresent, what comes to mind – to describe what I have experienced myself and witnessed in my clients – is heightened emotions. Often when life’s curveball is thrown at us, we are told to “keep calm and carry on”, or more coarsely that “sh*t happens and to ‘suck it up’”. But the pandemic has proved to be one situation where we could not simply carry on with “Business as Usual”.
During the pandemic, we have variously experienced the grief of losing loved ones, the loneliness of isolation – or the opposite, craving time for ourselves in a busy household, had the anxiety of jobs being at risk, felt the burden of home schooling, extreme tiredness from working early mornings and late evenings to get your own work done, the weariness of endless zoom meetings, the pressures of virtual presenteeism, and poorer work/life boundaries (it is well documented that people are working longer hours since the pandemic) and many have not had a proper break or holiday for months, and indeed you might have suffered having had COVID-19 yourself (as I have – shocked out of my invincible Covid complacency and still struggling with my foggy brain).
What I have also noticed and welcomed, however, is that it is now much more acceptable to share what’s going on for us honestly and vulnerably. This authenticity is something that is really valued in the corporate world, because when we are ourselves, bringing our whole selves to work, and sharing our experiences, not only is this the cornerstone of the value of diversity of thinking, but conversing openly makes you relatable and builds connection and trust with your teams, clients, and peers.
The practice that has really helped me survive my rollercoaster of emotions of the past year is compassion and it something that I talk to my clients about. Compassion, both towards others and oneself, and the benefits of it are well researched with evidence that practising compassion at work is a desirable leadership quality. It is obvious why being compassionate to others is of value, so what I really want to highlight is the practice of self-compassion. What I mean by this is treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would a best friend. For me self-compassion is not about a glass of wine, a box set on Netflix, a bubble bath or retail therapy – as nice as that is! It is about treating yourself tenderly and gently, giving yourself a break, cutting yourself some slack, not berating yourself or judging yourself harshly. One good example here is to let go of perfect, 80% is usually good enough or as I like to say FFP, Fit For Purpose. And remember the bit you don’t do or don’t include the other person will be none the wiser.
There are also two sides to compassion, the tender-loving-side and the fierce standing-up-for yourself side. The latter is often overlooked when we think about being compassionate, but essentially it is about self-respect, having boundaries and saying “no” or at least “not now”. Women typically always put others’ needs first and will let themselves down rather than letting others down. But we need to learn to look after ourselves and our needs. It is not selfish, it’s essential. Think of it as Self-Leadership. To help others you must look after yourself first. It’s the metaphor “you cannot pour from an empty cup” and the analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before you put on someone else’s. Practising self-compassion, nurturing yourself, taking time for yourself to rest, exercise or see a friend, is also an important thing to role model to others.
So, if “overwhelm” is your middle name, and “yes” is your automatic answer, I urge you to practise a little more self-compassion and
- Let go of perfect
- Respect your boundaries
- Have a nap!
Cara Moore is a Life and Leadership Coach, holding the Professional Certified Coach credential with the International Coach Federation and delivers our sessions on how to overcome Imposter Syndrome, among others.
Cara is also a Nap Ninja – her daily nap is her super-power and wonder drug supporting her energy and success at home and in business, so much so she set up a business www.ProNappers.co.uk to get naps on to the healthy high performance and wellbeing agenda in Corporates.
When not facilitating, coaching, or napping she walks her Springer Spaniel Google on the beach, sees her three grown-up sons, keeps in touch with her friends, moves house (4 times during lockdown), has a new romance, and is trying hard to get better at doing nothing at all!