Catherine Porth | Founder & Chief Advocate of Let Her Speak
When you meet with as many women as I do on a daily basis, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up having a lot of the same conversations. There are so many shared experiences among women that when we get an opportunity to share, we quickly learn that we are definitely not the only ones. But what has been the most enlightening insight I’ve gotten from these conversations is just how much our own negative self-perceptions impact our ability to expand our power and influence.
These negative self-perceptions act as internal barriers that get in our own way. Not only do these barriers hold us back from promotions, jobs, wealth, or notoriety, but they often spread to how we show up and support other women. The most frustrating part of this phenomenon is how often we don’t realize we’re acting as our own worst enemy. While I don’t have a simple answer to the question “why are we our own worst enemies?” – I am going to break down this phenomenon based on my experiences working with women and provide steps we can each take to become our own best friends.
It all starts with mindfulness & awareness
The word “mindfulness” gets talked about a lot, especially in the context of daily meditative practice. Mindfulness, in essence, is focusing on the here and now – specifically shifting that focus inward. It requires patience, purpose, acknowledgment, and non-judgment of our own minds. For me, that last piece is the most important – non-judgment.
Have you ever had thoughts like these run through your head?
- “I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m a fraud.”
- “I must be dumb because I can’t figure this out.”
- “I should know better than this – I can’t believe I could be so stupid.”
- “Look at (fill in person’s name), she/he/they have it all together. I wish I was more like them and less like me.”
- “There’s no way I’ll qualify for this job/project/program. I don’t have enough experience.”
- “Nobody cares about me or what I have to say.”
We’re often told to be mindful of how we’re talking to ourselves and to speak to ourselves as we would our best friend. But one step that I think gets forgotten is to not be judgmental for speaking to ourselves this way to begin with. To be human is to be self-critical. These critical thoughts trigger our brain’s “threat system” which is the oldest part of our brain. However, when we become more mindful of how we are speaking to ourselves and not judging ourselves for having these thoughts – we begin to trigger the more advanced and logical part of our brain. It’s out of this mindful practice of reducing self-judgment that we can begin the transition to self-compassion.
Which leads me to awareness…
While mindfulness is typically considered inward-looking, awareness is focused more on looking outward. When I talk about awareness, I am referring to paying attention to the world around you and how it is affecting you. More specifically, I mean:
- Where did those self-critical thoughts about yourself come from? Was it your upbringing? Did someone tell you that and you believed them? Is it from media consumption? Are they tied to a traumatic experience?
- When you’re with a group of friends or family – how do you feel? Are you anxious? Calm? Do you feel like you can be yourself? Do you have to put a “show” on for them? Are they supportive of your goals and believe in your abilities?
- When you’re working – are you usually full of energy? Do you feel seen, heard, and valued by colleagues and managers? Do they seek out your input or make you feel silenced?
It’s easy to talk about these practices and much more difficult to actively integrate them into your daily life. Especially if you’re just starting your journey in self-compassion and acceptance. The greatest advice I can offer is to start small. You’re not going to rewire your entire way of thinking in the course of 24 hours. Breaking any habit requires time and consistency (it doesn’t hurt to have a trusted friend on the journey with you).
Getting started with mindfulness could include writing down every negative thought you tell yourself over the course of one day and then reading them without judgment. It could be practicing positive affirmations or posting them in spaces you need them the most or simply asking yourself the questions above. Whatever the small step you choose is – make sure it is something you can do consistently. And don’t judge yourself if you stumble.