Isn’t it a joy to watch a baby learn to walk? The infectious look of glee on their faces? The beaming pride with which they look around and seek acknowledgement? The total oblivion to the ‘failure’ of numerous falls and the endearing scramble back to our lap of safety when the going gets really tough!
Of course we provide them with all the attention and reassurance in the world. We celebrate their successes just as we celebrate their failures. We photograph them along the way, we soothe their little hearts and we pick them up in joy and fling them in the air before putting them down again so they can go off practicing that trot for the umpteenth time.
We often talk about baby steps when we set goals and chunk them down into manageable parts. But we forget the real essence of baby steps – reassurance, compassion and celebration.
“Get up and get going already!”
Imagine how well a baby would do if every time they feel down, we shouted “Loser!” from the corner of the room and shook our heads in disgust. Imagine how well they would do if they came crawling to us in tears and we pushed them aside and retorted “Get up and try again, you’ve wasted one more day”. Imagine how well they would do if they did have their first success and we shrugged our shoulders and said “Now get onto running, it’s about time!”
Yes, it may sound cruel, but isn’t that pretty much how we take our ‘baby steps’. We expect to reach our goals without the soft incubation of love and support. Given that we spend insane amounts of time creating narratives in our own minds and that a huge part of them tend to be negative given the negativity bias, how encouraging would our average talk possibly be?
Driving with the brakes on
Depriving ourselves of self-compassion along the journey that is life is like driving with the brakes on. Our inner critic is the loudest when we embark on something new, something exciting. But it is there to warn us to be careful – not to stop us from achieving our goals. When we begin to agree with it, and forget to nurture ourselves with the self-compassion that can put things into perspective and encourage us on our journeys, we fall into a negative downward spiral that sucks us in and makes us give up.
The pitfalls of visualization
Visualizing a goal and working towards it are polar opposites. One is bright and enticing – a world where things flow smoothly and perfectly. The other is clumsy and burdensome – current reality with all its hurdles and imperfections. And when that reality check kicks in, we begin to questions our goals and/or ourselves, instead of rushing forward to provide ourselves with the encouragement we need.
The solid and steady trot of a toddler is way different to the wobbly ride of a baby. Luckily, the baby is blissfully unaware of the goals and free from judgement. They are in it for the ride – the clumsy wobbly ungraceful ride to success, filled with falls and injuries, but also hugs and reassurances. That should teach us a lot.
Of course we are not little babies any more, and many of our goals are known only to ourselves. So who better to provide us with that reassurance and compassion that keep us motivated than our own selves? Yet how often do we remember to do that?
Now I’d love to hear back from you! How do you react when faced with obstacles to your goals? Does self-compassion come naturally to you?