Accepting ourselves – the key to success
„Everything we do for ourselves, we do for others, and everything we do for others, we do for ourselves.“ – Thich Nhat Hanh
Our mental team
In our mind we have sometimes sort of a team meeting. The „mover and shaker“ steers through his presentation to gain the approval of the audience, and their willingness to participate in his project. There is the CFO, who is only interested in expenses, ROI and payback periods, the Labor Director who wonders what the staffing should look like. There is the IT geek, who is enthusiastic about the project, but urges data protection concerns. Marketing & Sales agrees and sees very good chances with the key customers … And then there is that one listener who only shakes his head silently and makes it all the more clear to the presenter: „You are not good enough.“
Behaviour is always the result of these inner meetings.
Members of the mental team are inner aspects of the entire personality. (They should not be confused with feelings or behaviour.) Schulz von Thun, the author of the concept, refers to the team leader as the overarching “I”, who either passively follows the dialogue of his team members, or actively intervenes, but in any case has the last word.
Team members are loud or quiet, respond quickly or slowly, dominate external interactions, or only appear inward, where they arise as thoughts, feelings, or body signals. Then there are members, who are not allowed to participate, and who hang out under the stage, in the emotional underground. The group dynamics in the meetings are similar to those in real life. Taken together, the teams reflect the leader’s life experiences, including the opinions of parents, friends, and life partners, or the values of communities to which the team leader feels.
And sometimes we don’t come to any results in the meeting. Then we feel helpless, and are receptive to the silent shake of the head by the inner critic. We get caught in a trap of comparison and self-pity: „Why don’t I get ahead faster? Why am I the only one who has difficulties?
Then, maybe, a couple of days off will help. The roles in the team are redistributed, and the yet uninvited members join in.
Sometimes we need a long time, to stop listening to the nagging, critical inner voice in our team, and stop being our most ruthless critic, and to finally develop more benevolence towards ourselves.
Ideally, we can treat ourselves with the same kind of care, support, and understanding, that we would show to anyone we care about.
Otherwise we scold ourselves if we make – inevitable – mistakes or, out of sheer caution, we just try avoiding mistakes and disorder. This limits our development and ties up our resources.
If we treat ourselves with good will, we will still feel ashamed or guilty of mistakes. But we can also see that, like everyone else on this planet, we are flawed and imperfect.
Accepting ourselves improves performance
Self-esteem is determined by our thinking about ourselves.
If we strengthen our self-esteem, we become more independent of the opinion of others – we become more self-determined. Self-esteem grows out of benevolence towards us, and trust in our abilities, awareness of the right to live according to our own values and at the same time have hope for success, for a happy and successful life. As our present is changing so rapidly, it is important to trust yourself and your abilities so as not to get lost in the complexity of life.
Sources of benevolence towards ourselves
According to Stavros Mentzos – he speaks of „pillars“ – we draw the good will towards ourselves from three sources in our early childhood:
- The first source is that of basic trust, which determines which „… fundamentally available security …“ someone has. This source gushes abundantly for those who have experienced sufficient confirmation and security as infants, or who have been given plenty of innate physical and psychological robustness.
- The second source are our internal guiding principles,
- and the third, internalised norms and values, from which a mature conscience develops, supported by appropriate recognition.
If we define ourselves only through comparisons and competition with others, and tie our self-acceptance to success in this competition, we become insecure and dependent on what ultimately inhibits us.
People who treat themselves benevolently have the right members in their mental team. They can speak openly about success, and have no problem accepting and distributing compliments. They can also show affection for other people, without being ashamed of it. They find it easy to accept criticism, admit mistakes, and are open to new things in life. Benevolence towards yourself strengthens self-esteem and protects against fear and frustration.
This is not about vanity or self-adulation. On the contrary: a benevolent look at our own mistakes, failures or shortcomings helps us to overcome them, because we see them more objectively and understand them better.
In other words, we better stop comparing ourselves, and focus better on our mental team, in order to become successful.
According to a 2012 study, we are more motivated to treat ourselves with warmth and understanding, when we fail. This is, because self-acceptance activates our biological self-calming system. Other studies have shown that, if we are able to acknowledge and understand our mistakes, we are better able to overcome them, and therefore can deal better with difficulties.
Build a strong mental team
As mentioned above, being nicer to ourselves is an attitude that also affects the people around us. The more good will we can muster while dealing with ourselves, the more likely we are to treat our fellow human beings in the same way.
If we can build mental teams, that allow us to see our mistakes in a better light, we will strengthen our self-confidence and inspire our environment through empathy, respect and understanding.
Having a harmonious team, where sparks can fly as well, but which works for the good of the whole, means to acknowledge externally, that we are all human beings, and that it is okay to stumble on our way to success, or to even fail. Imagine, not only being able to participate in your mental team meetings with confidence, but knowing that you do not have to have an answer to everything. How to get there?
If a person is faced with a difficult decision, he conducts mental team meeting more or less subconsciously. Confusion, contradiction (e.g. bad gut feeling against rationality) and the dominance of the loud, fast and popular guys among team members often characterise these meetings. If the confusion becomes overwhelming, the team members must be identified, who want to comment on the topic. This often works amazingly well, if you take a little time. Sometimes it can even make sense to write down their name, appearance and preferred manner. Each team member should then be given the right to deliver their message, without any objection from any other member. A free discussion gives everyone the opportunity to clash. The team leader should pay attention, in order to be able summarise all positions in the end. This requires leadership talent: neutrality and appreciation of all opinions. On this basis, a compromise can be reached, as in real teams.
This has several advantages. If one accepts benevolently one’s own plurality, it is not necessary to neglect important needs, in order to quickly force a unified opinion. The result automatically leads to higher self-satisfaction. And finally, self-clarification will later help to quickly understand and deal with discomfort about the issue, eventually arising further on.
Practice makes perfect.
Keep an eye on how often you have scolded yourself for a small mistake. Pay attention to how you have treated yourself in the past week. Have you treated yourself like a caring, supportive friend? Or like your worst critic?
With the answers to these questions, you will see, where a little more room for good will in dealing with yourself would be desirable.
- Aytekin Tank: Why Being Kind to Yourself Is Key to Entrepreneurial Success
- Stavros Mentzos: Lehrbuch der Psychodynamik: Die Funktion der Dysfunktionalität psychischer Störungen. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2013.
- Friedemann Schulz von Thun: Miteinander reden 3 – Das ‚innere Team‘ und situationsgerechte Kommunikation. Rowohlt, Reinbek, 1998.