One of the nicest things about lockdown was the feeling that you could relax a little. Be yourself. Let a few expectations go. Chill in your own surroundings, wear your daggy trackpants and have unfolded washing, rowdy dogs and half-dressed kids.
But as we throw off the COVID shackles and recommit to life outside the home, we’re losing that comfort at pace. I’m working with some incredible people right now, and many of them are just … weary. The grind is back. They’re getting up every morning and dutifully dressing up to hit the commute. They’re guiltily hiding any inconvenient sniffles and spending most of their day in meetings that further wear them down. Sigh.
In last week’s Wednesday Wisdom, I talked about being kind – to others, and to yourself. As I mull on this further, I’ve been thinking about the pressures that make it challenging to do that. The internal pressures, and the external ones.
Genuine comfort with being whoever we are, however we are – like we got a taste of in lockdown - is an incredible gift. It’s not one we get enough of. It’s a bit odd really, given that we all want it for ourselves, and others. But like most systems, unless we actively work against it, we’ll get the default instead – and the default at work today is to push hard and hide the true cost of it.
I reckon imposter syndrome has a lot to answer for here. Imposter syndrome creates an inner sense of double standards, that leads to us treating ourselves worse than we’d treat an enemy.
Like most of my clients, I’m a high achiever, with high standards. I work too hard, I stress too much, and I regularly take on more than I should. Birds of a feather flock together! Also unsurprisingly, however, I do a great job of supporting my clients to live, work and feel better. With my attention turned outward, I happily and confidently provide the tools and support my treasured clients need to create space, manage time and focus their energy.
It’s the same reason that when my kids are sick, I get them to bed early and make sure they drink plenty of fluids – while I ignore my own illness to do “just one more thing that can’t wait.”
It’s in the same way when my friends are down on themselves, I’m the first one in there with a “ARE YOU JOKING ME RIGHT NOW? YOU ARE F**KING AWESOME! STOP BEING MEAN TO MY FRIEND!” – while I’m simultaneously battling with my own inner critic.
Isn’t that ridiculous? We clearly have the skills to do this better. So what if we just, like, turned that inward? How good would that be?
At L’Oreal yesterday, we had a great Meetings that Matter session that talked about the way those double standards show up with meetings at work. We realised that if we treat internal meetings with the same respect and reverence as we treat client time, we’d all feel a lot better and get a lot more done.
That makes sense. When we’re attention-out, and focused on serving others, we do a brilliant job. It’s when our attention turns in the other direction that we start changing the rules.
Well… f**k that. It’s time we took all that outward-facing brilliance and treated ourselves with a bit of it. Turn it around, team. I dare ya.