One of my nieces plays volleyball at her high school as well as through a club team. She and her club team were in a regional tournament a couple of weeks ago in a location about four hours from where I live. I didn’t have plans for the weekend, so I decided to go and watch. I’d never seen her play (truth is I’d never seen anyone play in a high school volleyball game before). It was so exciting! The way the court was set up we were able to sit right there on the sidelines within feet of the court (which was sometimes dangerous if a loose ball came hurling towards you). I felt like a celebrity sitting courtside.
I loved watching her and her teammates as they worked together, communicating “mine”, “got it” and moving through their plays. It was like watching a choreographed dance. One steps up to the net to set the ball; the other comes in from the side to spike it. There was so much energy and enthusiasm. It was evident they loved the game. I was so proud of my niece; she played well but more importantly she was a positive supporter of her teammates. She would encourage them if they made a mistake and they all celebrated after a good play. It was infectious.
One of the young ladies on the team was also a very good player. Her strong suit was powering the ball over the net once it was set up for her. I loved watching her rev up and slam it down many times for a game point. As in any situation, even when we are really good at something there are occasions when mistakes are made. That was the case with my niece and her teammates. They did not play perfectly in each match, there were miscalculations or missteps. All of that is to be expected. However, this particular teammate was so hard on herself. The rare occasion when she did miss the ball or didn’t get it over the net or inadvertently overpowered it to out of bounds, she was visibly angry and denigrating to herself. Because we were sitting courtside, I could hear her negative self-talk (cussing at herself) and see her expression and reaction (anger, stomping her feet, pounding her fists). It made me sad to witness. She didn’t deserve to feel so bad, it’s only a game. She just made a mistake. Of course, her teammates and the rest of us spectators would offer her reassurance. That seemed to help externally but I could tell she had internal dialogue underway.
I can totally relate. Maybe you can too. I know several of my inner circle friends and I have had these same conversations recently. We set expectations for how we should handle a professional or personal situation. We have it scripted intellectually, rehearsed it mentally and envisioned the outcome; however, if it doesn’t necessarily play out that way, we start the self-disrespect tapes. Or perhaps there’s a vulnerability or discord in a relationship and the insecurities mount. Maybe there was a task to perform, and you are late on the deadline, so self-loathing ensues. We can think of all the shoulda, coulda, wouldas in hindsight. It’s easy to perseverate on the “what-if’s” instead of celebrating the “what dids”. We seemed to be wired as a species to look for the shortcomings, the risks, the faults versus the wins, the advances, the successes. Even when I conduct self-care presentations and ask attendees to consider one thing they love about themselves, I’m consistently met with groans. It can be challenging to embrace and elevate our goodness. But it is there. It is evident to others!
My goal for the future is to treat myself the way I would treat someone else. Just as I would quickly support a loved one (or a young female on a volleyball court) to reframe and see the good in any situation, while still learning whatever life lesson is to be gained, I need to do that for myself. It’s ok (albeit beneficial) to acknowledge areas for growth but not dwell on them. Let’s make a pact to be gracious with ourselves, just like we would with someone else. Let’s keep practicing ways to love ourselves, see our worth for just being, and not just because we powerfully spike the winning point.