In my experience, self-acceptance is one of the most powerful and liberating gifts we can give ourselves.
With the overwhelming pressure of modern life increasing, more than ever, we need to find our light. We need enduring strength to help us be resilient and feel empowered.
It is my belief that we all deserve to take our innate confidence and skills forward into the world with grace and ease. However, that is much easier said than done, especially if we don’t fully accept ourselves.
Additionally, having worked therapeutically using both body work and talk therapies with clients for over 30 years it is a painful and crippling issue that I witness surfacing time and time again.
I have wanted to write about self-acceptance and ‘the shadow’ for a long time as it is something that I have struggled with for many years. The gentle peace and happiness I experience on a daily basis as I’ve grown my own self-acceptance has been truly liberating. As with us all it is a ‘work in progress’, however, I hope to share some of what I’ve learned.
Self-judgement holds us back from competing, participating fully in life and from being heard. Crucially it stops us from finding our deep inner wisdom and light and shining that into the world.
If you have been troubled by feeling that you are not good enough in ANY way or that you are hiding from ‘dark’ parts of yourself, you are not alone, welcome to the gang! Sadly you probably feel like you are alone. This isolation helps to feed the sense that we are ‘not enough’.
“I’m not good enough”
I have found often that as clients enter into their therapy journey that they encounter a space where they cannot accept part of themselves. The basic EFT statement that “I deeply and completely love and accept myself” is just too much for many to even say….let alone believe. Maybe the words they express are:
“I’m stupid” “I’m too soft” “I’m fat” “I’m needy” “I’m weak” “I’m ugly”, “I’m too sensitive”, “I’m selfish” and most of all “I’m not good enough”.
This place, of often the most harsh and terrible self-judgement, exists in most of us at some point in life. For many it is a constant inner critic that chatters in our mind or surfaces to deflate us when we most need our energy and power. For me growing up it was always “There’s something wrong with me. I’m too sensitive – why am I reacting so much when everyone else appears to be calm!”
Sadly because of the pressure of advertising and modern expectations of perfection, women usually include some kind of additional body condemnation (they should lose a few pounds, or that they look old, or their hair/skin/teeth/eyes, you name it, are flawed!)
Men will generally question their weakness and sensitivity. We still live in a culture that still limits men’s emotional freedom to express pain or fear. They will try to cover up deep feelings or any perceived ‘weakness’ that they notice in themselves. Big boys don’t cry.
When we mix that with some extra judgement about our intelligence or abilities or something that we do (or don’t do) that we find completely unacceptable, an exhausted and unhappy person is often created.
Just to make this an even more potent mix we will keep this to ourselves where it can fester and grow. Shame needs isolation to thrive and most of us hide what we REALLY don’t like about ourselves.
Many approaches will tell us to ‘think positive’ and control or ignore the ‘ugliness’ we feel within. We are often told to stop thinking negatively, say lots of positive affirmations and that will stop our negative behaviours.
If only it was that simple.
The truth is, that it is a paradox. We are all these things. We are all lazy and hardworking, generous and selfish, thoughtless and thoughtful, greedy and altruistic, all these qualities exist within ALL of us.
Most of us have a few destructive behaviours that we end up repeating that often hijack us – over eating, drinking, surfing the web, playing online games, shopping etc. Just ignoring this or putting a ‘sticking plaster’ of positive affirmations over the problem behaviour usually doesn’t work and often leads to more inner separation, judgement and emotional hijacks.
I suggest that our goal with our ‘Shadow’ needs to be exploration, wholeness and gentle acceptance. It is a process and takes some kindness, self study and investigation.
Perhaps the workaholic needs some lazy time to stop burnout, or the eternal optimist needs to access some pessimism when negotiating with a pushy sales rep? Do you need to find your inner pedant when you go tackle your accounts?
Take your time and know that you are not alone! To help you, try the exercises below:
Exercise 1 – Exploring Your Parts
What are the parts of you that you don’t like about yourself? Let’s bring them into the light….they might be useful in some way. The sensitivity I used to judge in myself as a child (and young office worker) is vital to my work as a therapist. If I wasn’t sensitive I wouldn’t get the results with my clients that I do….so there might be some use to being able to access a part of yourself you have hidden away.
Are you lazy, false, timid, late, mean, pedantic, stupid, selfish, thoughtless, angry, pessimistic, boring?
Take a moment to think about the things that you do that you don’t like about yourself.
Be honest and let it all out and make a good long list. If you are already a tapper, tap while you do it!
To help you ponder this ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I want to accomplish by reading this blog?
- What am I really scared of? (be honest!)
- What is in the way of me achieving and shining in the world?
- What are you most afraid of looking at within yourself?
- What does your inner critic say? What do you call yourself when things go wrong? “I’m so stupid, I can’t do maths”
- What stops you reaching your goals?
- What parts of your life do I want to grow or transform?
- What are you terrified that other people will find out about you?
- What is the biggest lie you have ever told?
- What do you do that makes you cringe?
- What is the main piece of advice you always seem to give to other people? I love this – we often teach what we most need to learn ourselves….
Take a deep breath. How was that? If you found it challenging, don’t worry, you are not alone. This kind of work IS challenging but the rewards when we shine a light into our ‘darkness’ can be huge.
Remember its process, and you need to give yourself time. Everyone, (even the most spiritually enlightened!) have lists like this. It is part of the human condition.
Check out Part 2 with another exercise to try next week