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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

The #1 self-leadership skill that most professionals neglect

Even though we’ve just been through the biggest festive season of the year, I’ve noticed that the mission-driven, highly educated professionals I spend time with and coach, aren’t very good at celebrating themselves…

They all too readily forget their accomplishments, skills, courage and kindness. This doesn’t do them justice in life and reinforces feelings of imposterism, not to mention rob them of opportunities to be visible and shine their light in the world.

In fact, my heart bleeds a little when I read their pre-coaching session preparation because one of the questions I ask them is: “How have you celebrated your results?” And, more often than not, the answer’s something like: “Errm, I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought about it.”

It’s not that you have to stand in the middle of an office and blow your own trumpet all day, nor sing your own praises to the sound of a harp to anyone who would listen.

Not at all.

It’s far less romantic than that.

The issue is simply this: you have to reward your mammalian-reptilian brain for playing along and allowing you to get out of your comfort zone to follow your dreams.

[Read on or watch this week’s Wise Wednesdays video below]

Ten years ago, an empathic supervisor cared enough to give me a wake up call when she asked me: “why haven’t you taken a holiday in 18 months, Amina?” To my horror, I realised that I simply didn’t believe I deserved one (despite passing some of the toughest professional exams in the world while working in busy hospitals, serving on a humanitarian mission in a war torn country, completing a Master’s and gaining super-competitive funding for a prestigious PhD). Imposter in the house? You bet. That’s when my personal development journey went deeper.

So here’s your wake up call, if you’re someone who hates acknowledging your achievements, gifts or talents and cringes when people give you compliments, consider this:

1) Transforming your life in any way means that you become your own leader. As a leader, there is no authority above you to pat you on the back when you’ve brought the bacon home. If you don’t do it, you’ll find yourself feeling down very soon or running back to the very authorities you were trying to break away from in the first place (for a bit of validation and dopamine).

2) Similarly, if your vision involves an independent venture in the form of a business, charity or organisation of some kind, you’ll be the boss and you’ll have to drive the whole venture forward. If you don’t reward yourself and honour your needs, you’ll burn out and the venture with you.

3) Rewarding yourself through pleasurable and fun activities has been scientifically demonstrated to improve performance and creativity. Without creativity, you’re a zombie-robot (replaceable by an actual robot). And who wants to be one of those?

4) There’ll always be a struggle between the need to get things done and the need to rest. Get the balance right for a sustainable and energy-filled life.

5) It doesn’t have to be something material or time consuming. It can simply be a self-acknowledgement recognising to yourself what you’ve been able to accomplish – a fine leadership skill. It can be that you raised a million pounds or spoke up in a meeting. Or that you took the dog for a walk. If you want to take it a notch further, ask someone else to acknowledge you for something you feel you’ve done well. This is something I get my clients to practise with me. Instead of “hoping you’ll be noticed”, ask for what you want. It’s uncomfortable to start with but it shifts your perspective dramatically and helps you feel empowered again.

Complete the sentence: “This week, I acknowledge myself for…”

Enjoy being a human being – and that entails celebrating your achievements as well as the process that gets you to your achievements including all the bumps on the road.

So reward yourself at regular intervals in your day, projects and big life transformations, just for being active, committed and present. Whether it’s your morning tea or a trip you’ve been wanting to book, make it a part of your strategy. You’ll only fly higher and more happily.

Have a great week,


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