Your path towards mental resilience and empowerment starts with empathy.
How many of you struggled with breast feeding?
Or didn’t have the birth you wanted to?
How many of you lost confidence after having a child and still compare yourself to others and feel like you aren’t enough?
Let’s be honest, I’m sure you can answer yes to one of these questions.
For me personally, I had a C-Section birth which was different to what I’d envisaged, and I struggled with breast feeding due to having an operation 6 weeks post-partum.
I didn’t feel very empowered to be the best version of myself during this time, as I was constantly judged.
Judged by society… judged by the doctors…judged by the mid-wives…judged by the village of new mothers that I so desperately needed.
This triggered inner voices of heightened judgement, shame, and resentment. These voices (saboteurs) had always been with me since childhood, like trusted companions constantly keeping me safe. Yet, it wasn’t until transitioning into motherhood when I finally noticed my saboteurs were sabotaging my happiness and success.
These saboteurs told me that:
- I wasn’t good enough.
- I didn’t measure up as a mother.
- Why can’t you be as perfect as Barbara in the mother’s group. She seems to be taking to motherhood like a duck to water.
- You’re never going to be able to juggle motherhood and work. You might as well not bother.
My story isn’t uncommon, I hear stories like this every day from the women I coach, and this doesn’t stop after returning to work after maternity leave.
As working mothers, our saboteurs become noisier than ever before, as you don’t have many moments to yourself in the day, due to work, looking after your child and managing the invisible mental load. You don’t have any recovery time and the only way of recovering is amid this chaos.
From a neuroscience perspective, your saboteurs hijack the amygdala in your brain, triggering you into having a tunnel vision, an energy of chaos, rigidity, and negativity, and sometimes a sense of hopelessness. From this head space, it’s challenging to feel empowered and effective.
Embracing empathy as a path towards empowerment and success
When I noticed my self-sabotage, I had two choices, either:
- Let my saboteurs win, or;
- Choose self-empathy via building my sage muscle to counteract these saboteurs.
The best decision I ever made was choosing self-empathy to counteract these common emotions, self-judgment, and importantly deciding who I was going to be in responding to life and career challenges. This is because a key antidote1 for saboteurs is empathy and this starts with yourself.
Merriam Webster defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”
My self-empathy journey started with understanding who I was beneath the conditioning from my childhood and society, being brutally honest about the person I was, and who I wanted to become.
This included letting go of many beliefs that I’d held about:
- Not being enough,
- Being able to do it all,
- Working like I didn’t have children and parenting like I didn’t have a job.
I had to reframe how I defined motherhood from perfection to being a deliciously imperfect human being.
Below are some tips to empower you towards achieving empathy:
1. Letting go of and reframing what perfect means to you!
- Start by becoming brutally honest with yourself and embrace your feelings of what you love and dislike about yourself.
- If you start from a place of love, this should stop your saboteurs spiralling out of control into a vortex of negativity.
- And when you think about what you dislike about yourself, think about what your family or close friends would say.
- It’s only through coming face-to-face with these beliefs, can you get to the other side where you accept and love yourself for your imperfections.
Here are some great questions to explore the beliefs you hold about perfection to help you have more love for yourself:
- What is your belief about being perfect and when did this start in your life?
- What is the beauty in others being imperfect? How does that make you feel?
- What would it look like if you could love yourself and your imperfections just 1% more each day? How might that impact you and those that love you?
2. Distinguish the beliefs between what’s true and what’s a lie!
- Take this free saboteur assessment to find out who your saboteurs are and how they are sabotaging you.
- I’m sure once you get your results:
– you will have many aha moments about where these saboteurs originated from during your childhood,
– you will be able to name and distinguish between these saboteur voices,
– that many of the beliefs and things you’ve been saying to yourself are lies and not the truth.
Naming and distinguishing your inner voices are one of the best ways to notice, respond and recover from your saboteur hijacking.
3. Being kinder to yourself
Do you ever look in the mirror and tell yourself what an amazingly perfect person you are?
- I doubt it and most often you might be looking at the flaws on your face, those lines of exhaustion or the skin complexion you are not happy with.
- Try looking in the mirror and just find one thing that you love about yourself and write it down on a post-id note.
- Doing this every time you look in the mirror, will help you create new neural pathways to look at yourself from a place of positivity and self-acceptance.
4. Outwardly expressing empathy for somebody else
- Once you have reduced the amount of time that you judge yourself, this will help you have more patience and empathy for other people.
Well, the same applies for how you can think about and consequently treat others.
For example, you may have days where:
- A little girl or boy might be nasty to your son or daughter at nursery or school,
- Somebody cuts you off in traffic,
- Or you see a mum who’s rushing, and their child is throwing themselves on the floor in front of you and it’s delaying you in paying at the shop on your way to work.
Instead of going to judgement about the way the parents are bringing up their children or that the person who cut you off should have known better:
Get curious, and ask yourself:
- what type of morning has this person had?
- what challenges they are going through now?
- what type of support do they need to help them feel less stressed about the current situation?
Often, it’s only from putting yourself in others’ shoes, can you start to feel more empathy for them and ask them if they need any support.
And from this place of noticing and curiosity can we start to see the whole focus, direction, and positivity about others. As curiosity activates the right hemisphere of our brain focused on relationships and empathy.
Remember we are all human and you will find yourself constantly going into judge mode. The way to continually build your self-command muscles in your brain to help shift it from judgement towards empathy is all about daily practise. I’m still working on my judge but it’s getting easier each day and I’m able to quickly recover and switch to empathy for myself, others, and circumstances.
Photo attribution, RDNE Stock Project, Pexels
November 1, 2023