Want More Self-Confidence? Start with a Little Self-Compassion

 In Better Life, Focusing on the positive, Negative emotions

Sheryl and her husband Dave were on a family vacation in Mexico. When Dave didn’t show up for dinner with friends, Sheryl rushed to the hotel’s fitness center to find him. To her horror, she learned that her husband had slipped and fallen, dying from a head injury at the age of 47. Sheryl and her two young children were devastated. You may have heard about this tragedy because the couple was Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the best selling book, Lean In and Dave Goldberg, CEO of Survey Monkey. 

I’m telling you this story because it became the basis for a new book called Option B, Self-Confidence and Self-Compassion. It was co-written by Sheryl and Adam Grant, a professor of psychology at the Wharton School and a favorite thought leader whose wisdom I enjoy. Adam has been recognized as Wharton’s top-rated professor for seven straight years and as one of the world’s 10 most influential management thinkers and Fortune‘s 40 under 40.

The book is Sheryl’s personal account of how hard it was for her to deal with this tragic loss, but also shares research (courtesy of Adam Grant) about ways we can build our resilience and self-confidence.

Adam told Sheryl that to help her navigate the trauma, she needed to practice self-compassion. He said she should treat herself with the same kindness and understanding that she would show to a friend. He told her one trick to making this easier is to journal every night about three things she did well that day. Sheryl said that at the beginning, it was really hard.

“I made tea, I got through one meeting without crying or at least without crying a lot. But these were the small wins. And when I went to bed writing three things I did well, what I realized is that even before Dave had died, I went to bed every night worrying about what I did wrong.”

Why am I telling you this? Adam points out that this approach is great for building self-confidence in any situation, not just tragedy. Many of us could use help in this area because it’s natural for us to focus on our mistakes; to berate ourselves for not doing or being better. Give it a try. Write about three things you did well during your day for a week and see how a little self-compassion can make you feel.

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