When I like me, I like you

In my mid twenties and early thirties, I disliked people. At work, at the store, on the street. I had a circle of friends, but people in general disappointed and annoyed me. This was a problem, not only for my own happiness, but because I was in a leadership position at work and I was quite a pill to work for and with.

When I think back on this period of time, I wasn’t happy. I was seeing a therapist who told me I was in need of an overhaul. Every session was a litany of how I needed to change. I was too this and too that. I needed to change in order to be happy. I’m pretty sure I handed down some of the bull crap she handed to me; it’s human nature to pass on the unpleasant. I cringe at the thought of my management style back then.

A few years later, my Grandmother died. She was 92 and ready, but it was a devastating loss for me. I found a new therapist to help me with my loss and what happened was miraculous. My new therapist and I started to undo the damage that had been done to me by that horrid previous therapist. Every time I was self-critical, she held up a mirror to show me how my true nature was a gift. My intensity, empathy, sensitivity - all the qualities that had been judged harshly for most of my life were now “the gems of me.” It was an unwinding process, peeling away layers of defense and anger and hurt, hurt, hurt to reveal my true nature of love, compassion, and deep sensitivity. I began to laugh and enjoy my life. I found vulnerability a comfort instead of a raw and painful experience. She made it safe to be fully Me without apology or explanation.

I like myself now - my good and not-so-fabulous qualities. I work to improve my ability to manage my controlling nature and all my gorgeous flaws. I have evolved into a better friend and parent as a direct result of being shown the path to love myself - as I am. And the bonus benefit? I like people! I like the rude ones because I can see their sadness; I like the angry ones because I can see their hurt; I like the grumpy ones because I can see how tired they are of not loving themselves as they are. I walk around wanting to hug people and give them the gift that was given to me. This is an example of my intensity, sensitivity and empathy and it annoys some people. I can laugh about that now.

What does this have to do with good management? Everything.

How often do you just hate everyone? One moment of general world hate is a sign of self-criticism. It’s an indication that we’re not at peace with ourselves, so we project that disappointment outwardly. If we catch ourselves in that moment of “everyone’s an idiot” and truly get quiet, what usually surfaces is, “I’m not enough.” Wow, it's hard to sit with that. But it will free you to learn that you are enough. As you are. How to do this?

How self-aware are you about your own self-criticism patterns? Start paying attention. Don’t try to change, just listen. How often are you self-critical? How often do you make snarky comments about your hair, your writing, your quirky sense of humor, your [fill in the blank]? As you recognize each criticism, change the criticism to a statement of fact:

I am so sensitive. > I am indeed sensitive.

I am so damn attention seeking. > I enjoy being the center of attention.

I am terrible at math. > Math makes me uncomfortable; it's not my greatest strength.

Now the painful emotion is removed and the facts are on the table. There is nothing to hide, apologize for, or change. You are you and there is no one like you. How you manage your You-ness is the key to being a good manager. Maybe you need to take a math class or tone down your desire to be the focal point of every meeting. Have compassion with yourself as you try to be You and fit into the company culture. Managers are role models; people know that someone who is self-compassionate will be compassionate towards others.

Give the statement-of-fact approach a try for 1 week and email me with your results. Be honest with yourself and trust that you can do this successfully. If I can, anyone can.

p.s. If your therapist isn’t helping you love yourself as you are, run like hell.

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