Why working to your strengths is important
Here’s the thing. We are told that you have to step outside your comfort zone because that’s where the ‘magic happens’. You have to step outside of your comfort zone in order to really experience the best that life has to offer.
But, over the years, I’ve come to realise that this comfort zone is a just a myth.
Of all of the people I’ve worked, no matter how senior or capable they are, I’ve yet to meet one who is as comfortable, or as confident, in their “zone” as they would like to be.
Try this for a moment: hold your arms in front of you, elbows bent, to make a circle.
This is your space. Your personal space. Yours. You spend your whole life here. This head, mind, body, these arms, legs and feet. This is your zone.
Ask yourself these two questions (I’ve offered some real life examples of my own and those of previous clients, but feel fre to add your own)…
Do you enjoy spending time in your headspace?
As you’re human you will at some point in life (most days?!) experience one or more of the following thoughts:
“Ought to” and “should do” thoughts.
You’re putting pressure on yourself to be better, more productive, even perfect, or consider yourself a people-pleaser
“I’ll probably mess it up, so I won’t even try” limiting self-beliefs.
You may have these because you’ve failed at something in the past, or you are afraid to commit so tell yourself not to bother even trying, or you’ve been told you’re not as capable as others and now you believe it to be true.
“I’ll start [exercising] tomorrow” unhelpful habits.
Not only are you kidding yourself into believing this when you think it, you are actually setting yourself up to fail and are going to feel worse about yourself when tomorrow comes and you don’t start [exercising]. [Insert thing you haven’t started yet].
“Ooh, I’ll just quickly clean the kitchen before I…” procrastination.
I know this one very well. And once I’ve cleaned the kitchen, I’ll get on to facebook or the news or the latest twitter feed. You’re afraid of the outcome, scared of putting yourself ‘out there’, and the more you procrastinate the worse you feel about yourself.
“I don’t deserve to be in a loving relationship / have the job of my dreams / make enough money / take time off (delete as appropriate)” low self-esteem.
You’re lacking in self-belief for one, or many reasons. You’ve never been taught how to like yourself. You probably can’t even list all the great things about you.
“Working with Jess was equally professional and fun. She is very supportive
and extremely professional – she clearly knows her stuff,
is experienced and confident.” VS
Do you have a good relationship with your body?
Did you know that 90% of women would change at least one thing about their appearance? I mean, seriously, how can we expect to feel comfortable in our personal space if we don’t actually like the way it looks or feels? It’s taken me years to accept that having rosacea means that I wake up looking like corned beef with eyes. It’s just my skin. It does not represent who I am, my values, my expertise, my silly sense of humour etc.
Do any of these thoughts resonate with you…?*
I’d like to change at least one thing about my body
I’m storing clothes that I hope to fit into one day
I wear baggy tops to cover my muffin top
I don’t go to the gym / pool unless I’ve shaved / waxed
I won’t go to the gym unless I’ve lost a few pounds
I wish away my skin condition, stretch-marks or scars
I wish my hair was thicker
iI wish my tummy was flatter
How comfortable is your Comfort Zone?
The fact is, if you can’t feel comfortable in your zone, you cannot expect to do the things that would serve you, help you feel more satisfied, help you to lead a more fulfiling life so you can get on with doing things that really excite you like…
- Going for that promotion
- Starting an exercise routine
- Getting on with your project
- Leaving your toxic relationship
This list of goals could be much longer, so feel free to add your own.
3 Things Can Help You
- Take the Pressure Off
It’s natural to want to be a better version of yourself; to reach for stars, earn shed loads of cash, or lose a few pounds. Psychologists like Maslow, Horney, Rogers all talked about the innate human desire to self-acutalise, to become your “Ideal Self”.
But you might find that you’re putting yourself under enormous pressure to be perfect, successful, slimmer, wealthier etc.
What if good is good enough?
What if 80% will do?
Who will notice?
Who are you trying to prove yourself to?
- Manage Your Mindset
It’s so easy to write these words. I know from personal experience how managing the cirtical voice is a lifelong challenge … but it does get easier. There are a number of methods that really help:
Mindfulness and self-compassion techniques remind us that thoughts are just experiences of the mind, and that we can choose how we respond to them. Tip – if you don’t know what your critical voice says, just sit still in silence for 5-10 mins and you’ll start to notice where your mind wanders.
You could try a CBT approach, disputation, where you look for evidence to substantiate your negative thought – they key here is that you probably don’t have any evidence that you are what your critical voice says you are. However, it is quite hard to tap into and listen to your rational brain when you’re feeling overwhelmed with anxious or critical thoughts.
The ‘de-centering’ method works well, but takes a bit of getting used to. By removing yourelf from the centre of the thought you can difuse your emotional reaction to it. So you begin to notice your critical voice saying, as your’e trying to squeeze into skinny jeans, “Oh my god I’m so fat”.
This thought is quckly followed by shame, accompanied by memories of eating my weight in ice cream the night before (which was really delicious by the way). The trick is to remember to replace that thought with “I am having the thought that I’m so fat” (and that ice cream was delicious). It takes practice and eventually leads to more self-acceptance and less shame.
- Self-Care vs Selfi-sh
How much time do you spend looking after other people or doing things for them? How much time do you spend looking after yourself and doing thigns just for your pleasure or interest?
Most us were raised be taught to put other people first, tend to their needs, to be accomodating, and polite. The truth is, you are nuch nicer to your friends than you are to yourself. And it’s time to learn to be kind to yourself.
What can you do today or this week that will benefit you in some healthy, balanced way? Taking a hot bath with luxurious bubbles? Getting a babysitter so you can have a romantic dinner out? Going for a walk at lunchtime instead of remaining huddled over your laptop looking social media?