Let’s start with a story. It’s about a client I had a few years back: I’ll call her Rosie. She came to me wanting to make a change in her life and career. She wanted a new job and a new start. An accomplished musician, educator, and administrator, Rosie worked 5 part time jobs teaching, performing, and doing PR work. She was over-stressed, under-appreciated, and under-paid.

What she wanted was a full-time job to have a more stable work life.

So together we worked on her job application materials and her networking skills.

It was a little rocky, because for Rosie, this work brought up all of her worries over not having the ‘right’ qualifications, her fear of being judged by others, and her negative self-judgment of her own work experience.

Rosie’s not alone. It’s typical that working on promotional material brings up our “junk”—our inner issues. And this is why working with a coach can be so helpful—so that you aren’t stuck alone feeling overwhelmed, “less than,” and unsure how to move forward.

We worked on polishing Rosie’s materials; these improved and eventually they conveyed her real strengths. All that was good.

But in terms of networking and interviewing, Rosie was so stressed out and her self-esteem was so low that she was clearly not projecting her best self.

So we talked about self-care. I asked Rosie what she did for herself during a typical week.

“What do I do for ME? Nothing! I don’t have time for me.”

So I asked her what gift she could give herself in the coming week—a small kindness, an act of self-compassion. Whether it was wearing a favorite outfit, calling a friend, taking a bubble bath, sitting down for a cup of a favorite tea or coffee, or listening to particular recordings.

But Rosie wasn’t having any of it. It was as if she’d decided that it was not OK to be kind to yourself. That life was to be endured.

Maybe this sounds extreme, but I can absolutely understand. I think we’ve all been in that place where we’re simply surviving the week and it feels painful to even acknowledge that we have wants or needs. We may be afraid to feel—for fear that all the frustration, fear, and disappointments, once we let it out, we won’t be able to contain and get the work done.

Change isn’t easy.

So Rosie and I talked about self-compassion.

To make yourself a priority in your own packed schedule—to take time for yourself and feel good about doing it—this required that you feel worthy.

Self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-esteem, these are all ultimately about self-love.

If you’re thinking, uh-oh, this is getting too woo-woo for me, hang on.

Self-love isn’t about chanting with incense, and it’s not narcissism; it isn’t being selfish. It’s the basis of healthy self-respect. It’s the foundation for being kind and respectful to others and feeling a sense of belonging in the world.

Self-love is putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. Because you need to take care of yourself in order to contribute to others.

So actually, self-love is a survival skill. But it’s often the first thing that disappears when we’re overwhelmed.

There are many of ‘Rosies’ out there. As musicians, we tend to be perfectionistic over-achievers, and many of us put in 60-80 hour work weeks for jobs that pay more at the 20-30 hr. rate.

So what can we do about this?

The truth is, even when one of us ‘Rosies’ gets that new job that we’re convinced is going to fix everything, we end up sliding back into the pattern of over-work, prioritizing everything and everyone else before ourselves.

In other words, there’s ‘inner work’ that needs to be done around self-love. Because the shiny new job isn’t going to fix a lack of self-love.

Doing the ‘inner’ work begins with giving yourself a gift

So what IS the best gift to give yourself? It’s not anything that can be bought or wrapped with a bow. And it’s not a new job (although of course that is always nice).

The best gift we can give ourselves is something more elusive and precious, something worth working toward and investing in.

The best gift we can give ourselves is a self-care habit.

Even if you have an over-packed schedule (and everyone I know does), believe me, you can still find time for a daily act of self-compassion.

What might this look like for you?

There are many ways you could build a self-care habit. The trick is to find one that you’re willing to do and stick with it. You can add more later. Here are a few favorites of mine and I’d love to hear others that you recommend!

1. Adopt a daily gratitude habit.

Focus on what you are specifically grateful for, the small things you can honestly say you’re grateful for in the moment. List these out loud and/or write them down in a journal. I do this in the morning and before bed, and before each meal. To help, check out the terrific tool, Grateful Flow.

2. Take 10 minutes a day for yourself.

Adopt a mediation practice to quiet your racing thoughts and get centered. If sitting meditation is a struggle, try yoga, tai chi, qigong, or another form of “moving meditation.” It could also be prayer or stress-management visualizations. If you do 10 minutes every day for 30 days in a row I promise you’ll see a difference. Here’s help for getting started.

3. Get outside in nature—unplugged.

Give yourself the opportunity to clear your mind and take in the natural beauty around you. Try what the Japanese call “Forest bathing.” What if you designated time in your busy schedule for even a short walk in a nearby park or other green space every morning or afternoon? Again, I can promise you if you build this into a habit it will shift your state of mind.

4. Read for inspiration

Find books that help you on your journey to a more fulfilling, compassionate life. There are two books I read most recently that I highly recommend for getting past our own inner challenges. They are Loveability by Robert Holden and Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny. My business coach “assigned” these to me and they really pack a punch. And a third that you may want to check out is The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer.

The moral of Rosie’s story: real change is an ‘inside job’—change your internal world and you can change the external one.

Over the holidays I hope that you have a wonderful time with family and friends. But more than that, I wish for you to give yourself the gift of adopting a self-compassion habit.

And if, for 2019 you’re ready to finally take your career to the next level, let’s talk.

I’ll be sending an email tomorrow—the answer to the “teaser” I sent on Friday about a few remaining openings in my Power Group coaching program starting in January—in case you want to make 2019 the year you gain real traction in your career.

And you are invited to join the FB Live conversation each Tuesday at 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT over on our Musicians Making It Facebook group—tomorrow we’re talking about self-compassion and the ‘inner work’ needed to move your career forward. I’d love to address your questions. Hit reply and let me know what aspects of this would be most helpful for you.

If you like this post, please forward it to your colleagues! And if you’re seeing this blog for the first time, you can subscribe here.

As always, I appreciate your feedback, questions and comments—and if you’re interested in receiving coaching from me, reach me at Angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com.

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