I was in a line up and I felt irritated. 31 executive MBA students had lined up to visualize our respective progress on self set personal development goals from a year ago.

The level of harshness on our own performance was typical. Without exception others rated progress higher than the ones that self evaluated.

This was an opportunity I had to take. “I suspect most of us could do with some improvement in the area of self compassion.” I said. 60 eyes were throwing me looks of question.

Self compassion is about accepting and loving oneself. The unconditional kind of love, I mean here.

The kind that despite our failures, misbehaviours and flaws, loves us for who we are… for all that we are (not just the good parts).

It’s so not how we are brought up: we should repent, improve, grow and so on. And there is this paradox of self compassion and ambition. If you accept (even love) yourself, doesn’t that prevent you from achieving, or even setting, (ambitious) goals? The answer is: no, not necessarily. Acceptance is not condoning, cheering on or anything of the kind that implies you have a positive judgement. Acceptance is just that: acknowledgement of what is… as is, without judgement (and if you can: with love).

Combining acceptance with ambition is extremely hard. If you find out how to consistently do it, teach me how! An example of how it has worked in my life? Two months ago I decided I wanted to become and feel healthy again. Before that I had refrained from looking into a mirror as much of possible. Not accepting, but very much negatively judging my own appearance. Add to that the self torture remarks in my head: “How could you (be so stupid to) let this happen (after being exteremely fit for so long)?“. Without acceptance of my state of being, becoming healty was extremely unlikely. Only after I aligned acceptance (“Ok, this is me now.“) and ambition (“This is my ambiton for the future.“) did I manage to achieve my goal.

I am sure that these 31 people (including me) will outperform our ambitions, once we manage to see and value ourselves and our accomplishments more for what they truly are. Meanwhile we can help eachother by offering mirrors so as to remind ourselves of that difference in evaluations. Line up please!

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