Starter steps to self-acceptance

So, we’ve talked about the cold hard truth:  we are all we’ve got.

We’ve talked about what the means: that life will get incredibly lonely without some self-acceptance.

Now, it is time to talk about the very first steps when it comes to self-acceptance.

If we’re working on the very first step in reforming your relationship with yourself, where do you think we start?

Yep, I heard you whisper that answer.

With how you think about and talk to yourself.

Too many of us do it: berate and belittle ourselves until what’s left is simply defeat.  Eradicating negative self-talk (from I’m fat to I’m not loveable, from I’m incompetent to I’m stupid) is some of the most important work we can do because it gets us out of our own way and allows us to move from paralysis to acceptance of our selves and action in our lives.

You might be thinking, “Why does what I say to myself even matter?  They are just thoughts.”  But thoughts are not that innocuous.   The reality is that we manifest what we think.  If we believe we have limits, we subconsciously place those limits on ourselves, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy so it is particularly important that we be extra mindful of what we say to ourselves.

Want to move away from self-defeating to self-accepting?  Try these starter steps to move yourself away from self-defeat and towards self-belief.

Recognize it.  These negative loops can become so common that we don’t even recognize that they are playing in our head.  The negativity just becomes the soundtrack to our life.  So, the first thing you have to do is catch yourself in the act.  Raise your level of awareness so that you are tuned in to the racket in your head.  Now, you have choices as to how you can respond.

Name it.  By this, I mean, literally give that voice in your head a name.  You might call it Sally or Edna or Agnes.  And when she pipes up next time, put her in her place.  Because here is the deal, very rarely is that voice in our head REALLY our voice.  It’s our 3rd grade teacher, an old boyfriend, a snippy classmate.  It’s rarely our criticism that is playing in our head.  When we say “Stop it, Agnes,” we accomplish three things.  We stop the negative talk before it goes too far (although any negative self-talk is too far); we remind ourselves that it is not our voice or values speaking, it is someone else’s judgment that we are giving too much room in our thoughts; and we remind ourselves, “I can take care of myself.”

Reframe it.  Sometimes, there is some truth in what we are noticing , but our negative self-talk has taken our language entirely too far and to a defeating place where we can’t even learn from it (we were impatient with our child, let’s say, but we take it up a few thousand notches to I AM THE WORST MOTHER IN THE HISTORY OF ALL MOTHERS).  Instead, we need to shape our self-awareness in a way that we can grow from it.  So, yes, maybe I was impatient with my child but does that mean that I am the worst mother in the world? No, it means that I need to find a solution that works better for us in those sorts of moments:  maybe it means that I need to go to bed earlier or have a bit more personal time or give us a little more time to get out of the house in the morning.

The truth is this:  absolutely everything is simply information.

We are so inclined to think that we are colossal screw-ups.  That we are just one mistake away from being found out.  But we are not- not one of us- a colossal screw-up.  Maybe we’ve had our slip-ups– we forget to write an item in the checkbook or to mail a bill or said something we regret or forgot to reply to an email in a timely manner or fill in the blank here. But just because we don’t attend to every detail that we thought we should/could or others wished we would doesn’t mean we are flawed or imperfect.  It is simply information.  Whatever it is that has made you call yourself a screw-up lately is lying to you.  You are not a screw-up.  The things that turn out differently than you expected or that you aren’t able to make happen aren’t taunting you.   They aren’t telling you that you are imperfect (because both perfect and imperfect are total farces).  They are giving you information.  See them that way and there’s a way to grow, there’s a way up, there is possibility.  The point of self-awareness is to empower us in our growth, not defeat us into stagnation.

Shift it.  It’s also important for us to have a bigger perspective.  So let’s take that earlier parenting example.  Yes, maybe you were impatient in that one moment with your son but you’ve also done some pretty amazing things as a mother and those things deserve to be claimed.  So, when you are wallowing in what you think you have done wrong, shift your attention to the things you’ve done right.

Claim it. If only we spent as much time claiming what we like about ourselves as we do lamenting what we do not like. At the end of each day, make a point of claiming at least one thing that you really appreciate about yourself. In fact, take it a step further and write that thing down in a little notebook.  You must begin to notice your loveliness.         

Blow past it.  We are simply not meant to be perfect; it would defeat the very purpose of life. Every day is a work in progress, and what we are meant to be doing is learning and refining.  Rather than revel in the negativity, revel, instead, in your possibility.  Treat yourself compassionately as you learn more about yourself and remember that you always get to decide how to begin again and that every single moment is a new beginning.

What has helped you to move towards greater self-acceptance?  What do you still struggle with in your journey?

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