When I was younger, I was regularly told that I was too sensitive, too emotional, that I took things too personally. The more I heard this, the more I started to disown and reject the parts of myself I was ashamed of; the things I thought kept people from accepting and loving me (my family included). The sad truth is that we have to be more mindful of the things we tell children, because quite often they believe them to an unintended extent. Those voices that told us we were “too much” or “not enough” become our inner critics – our saboteurs.
From a young age we all have a strong desire to be seen and heard, and that desire grows with us into adulthood. We start to adapt and abandon ourselves in ways that make us feel seen and heard – it is why social media is so addictive, we define our worth by what others think of us. We become approval junkies. From here begins a flurry of unhealthy habits: overworking, overachieving, burnout, codependency or even counter dependency, identity crisis, low self esteem, inability to say no – the list goes on.
When we have been shamed into believing the way we are is somehow faulted, we become defensive in the future. The more defensive we become, the more we close our real selves off to the world. We all struggle with confidence to varying degrees, and it’s not surprising when you consider how we speak to ourselves about ourselves. Our saboteurs are always chiming up to validate our insecurities which keeps us in states of doubt and indecision. Though we are all born worthy, experience leaves us questioning our worth and seeking out the things that reinforce the uncertainty of who we are.
I’ve often been asked, how do I love myself when I don’t even like myself? My short answer: acceptance.
This is where acceptance becomes so critical – and there’s a key piece to it: just because you accept something doesn’t mean you have to necessarily like it. Acceptance allows us to acknowledge both the good and bad, in ourselves, in others and in situations. Our inability to accept is what keeps us in a constant state of turmoil and attachment to the idea that things should be different from what they are. Acceptance requires consciousness for what is, and the more awareness we have, the more choice we will find ourselves with. The choice to let go. The choice to love yourself, even when you know you are a work in progress.
I recently read that guilt carries with it the responsibility of choice and it stands in the way of acceptance. It keeps us stuck in the past, regretting the decisions we have made. On a conscious level, so many of us recognise our self deprecating ways, but we fail to hold ourselves accountable for the choices we have made – and continue to make. Without self responsibility, how do we change our ways?
I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating certain choices and how those decisions and slight shifts in perspectives transform our lives. Here are just a few I’ve lingered on recently.
We have the choice to:
- React through defensiveness or respond through thoughtfulness
- Fear conflict or welcome open communication
- Build walls from resentment or build bridges with healthy boundaries
- Try to convince others of our point of view or learn to give context
- Have unrealistic expectations or find appreciation for how others do things differently
- Worry (and thus stress) or care (and thus take action)
- Be right or to try to understand
- Feel our emotions or allow ourselves to be consumed by them
If our choices are guided by acceptance, it becomes so much easier for us to see, understand and make the more empowering decisions for ourselves. It requires a daily commitment to show up with compassion and curiosity. What is working for you and what is not? Let’s learn to be kind to ourselves first and foremost (talking down those negative, fear driven inner voices), so that we can be kind to others without being self sacrificing. Let’s start making deliberate choices, resisting the urge to exert control by overthinking.
Find acceptance. Be forgiving. Feel the love.