Grow Resilient by Building Your Inner Voices of Self-Worth
There is something delightful in watching a child learn how to walk. They fall countless times, they get bumps and bruises, and they cry and howl.
And yet, they rise up one tumble after another with that gleeful toothless smile, and keep going until they’ve perfected the art of walking. Now, isn’t that a fine example of resilience! And yet, as we get older, we seem to forget this. We let frustrations get to us and allow failures to stop us in our tracks. We become overwhelmed by negative emotions and lose the motivation to keep going. What did we have when we were little that we seem to have lost along the way? And how can we get it back so we become, in the words of Nassim Taleb, antifragile?
When we were little, we made sense of our world through the words and actions of our primary caregivers. Getting hurt was okay because they soothed the pain. Trying new things was fun because they encouraged us. And succeeding felt great because they celebrated the wins with us. Armed with this wholeness, our little selves were able to face life’s little challenges.
Somewhere on the road to maturity, we lose this. In a society that worships competition and perfection, we reject the parts of ourselves we don’t like and shy away from experiences that may reveal our apparent incompetence. We allow external evaluations to faze us because our own evaluations of our lovability and competence are weak and ill-formed. Hardly the recipe for resilience.
Resilience comes from an internal working model in our minds that is grounded in an inherent belief in our abilities and qualities. It is then that we can accept our dark sides, learn from our failures, and take on the challenges that lead to growth and success.
To do so, we have to nurture many inner voices. These are the voices that believe in us despite disasters and setbacks, and that value our worth despite disappointments, just like our caregivers did.
Cultivate an Inner Voice of Support
When we step out of our comfort zones, we need lots of support and encouragement to sustain us. How far would we have gotten in our efforts to walk had our caregivers blasted out impatiently, “C’mon now! It’s been 2 months already!”? To develop the inner voice of support, think of what you would say to someone you really care about the next time you’re judging yourself or doubting your abilities.
Develop an Inner Voice of Compassion
Failures are part of life—but they rarely make us feel good. It’s easier to learn from them when we provide ourselves with the warm embrace that soothes our emotional hurt. Research by Dr. Paul Gilbert shows that self-compassion, which is the voice of kindness and empathy, and sometimes a hand on the heart, allows us to stay with negative emotions and find the inner strength to do the right thing.
Cultivate an Inner Voice of Courage
Novelty is scary. We’re programmed to avoid uncertainty and run away from pain. To be courageous in the face of challenge, we need to develop the inner voice that reminds us of our abilities. By thinking of inspirational role models, or of the times we ourselves faces challenges in the past, we can talk to ourselves in a way that motivates us to stay the course rather than become victimized by the world around us.
Encourage an Inner Voice of Celebration
We can be quick to minimize our successes, especially when we set ourselves unreasonable targets. Both the smallest of wins and the finest of hours need to be relived, by savoring them and celebrating them, so that momentary positives sink into our long-term memory and become the inner strength of resilience. That’s what our caregivers did when they picked us up in delight and twirled around with us in their arms as we made that solo crossing from the table to their warm embrace.
With these inner voices as our safe harbor, we become our own best friend when we need ourselves the most. We learn to stay with negative emotions instead of adding on additional heapfuls of self-criticism. And we open up to our wholeness, our struggles and successes, and our darkness and shining light. For it’s in wholeness that we can believe in the light at the end, however dark and dreary the tunnel may happen to be.
Homaira Kabir is a Women’s Leadership Coach, a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and a Positive Psychology Practitioner, whose work expands the breadth of the human experience. She empowers women to become leaders of their own selves in order to become leaders in relationships, at work and in life. You can read more about her work at homairakabir.com or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter (@homairakabir).
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