I wanted to look at the art and challenge of self-acceptance; the practice of accepting ourselves with all of our unique foibles, idiosyncrasies and less than shiny bits. (No ifs, ands or buts.)
This practice is so essential because it fundamentally informs the way we perceive the world, others and our own self. And our perceptions create our ‘reality’……or at least how we feel about it and choices we make.
My question to you is this:
When you think of yourself and look at the complete/everything included version, do you allow all your different parts to show themselves or are there some parts you consistently keep hidden away? (Hidden except for when they manage to act out or until you can tuck them back out of sight.)
Are there parts of your self you don’t show due to shame, embarrassment or simply feel they are ‘unacceptable’?
Are there parts of yourself you don’t like?
This is interesting territory to look into because it is a natural human response to avoid things we don’t like or enjoy. It seems quite ‘normal’ to ignore those less than savory parts or tuck them outside of the light of who we (want to) see ourselves to be. (And many of us have our parts that we might struggle with….)
The truth is, I have yet to discover a way of fully seeing, loving or accepting oneself that might include a severing or rejection of certain parts of our selves for any reason.
With this in mind, if we are participating in any form of blacklisting or diminishing of certain parts, I don’t see how we will be able to fully enjoy the nourishment of self-acceptance and authentic self-love.
(Again, when I say ‘authentic self-love’ or acceptance I am speaking of the kind where there are no caveats or strings attached. It is a state of being without an ‘if’ or ‘but’.)
It can be quite a puzzle because what we have generally learned is to only acknowledge or truly show the parts that we like or are ‘acceptable’. And since this is status quo, it seems like this behavior is a no brainer, right?
But what if…
What if the key to consistent and grounded self –love/acceptance is actually about gathering together all parts of us? Even if we don’t like them, what if we choose to invite them in and accept them as is?
What if we gave these parts caring face time (and not just when they are ‘acting out’ or causing a ruckus inside of us)?
Here’s what I know; each of us have these parts that we might want to reject or hide, even from ourselves. And each of our reasons and relationships with these parts are unique to our own lives. That is why there will always be a unique approach we each need to discover for ourselves. But I fully believe each of us can discover this approach and a deeper sense of self-acceptance without question.
These parts that we try to ignore always find ways to speak up and get out from under wherever we have ‘hidden’ them. This internal dynamic creates a tension and even a setup for pitfalls. It can support a system of continuous push/pull that leads to a sense of internal struggle, depression or self-deprecation (to name a few). It can also fuel dynamics you perpetuate in your external relationships with others. These inner dynamics can cause replicated behaviors of rejecting others, reacting as opposed to communicating or favoring only that which is simple/pleasant. (I am sure each of us can connect the dots along these lines somewhere in our own lives)
Learning to recognize how we shut out or snub certain parts of ourselves and then choosing to integrate them back into the ‘whole’ can actually free up energy we are exerting to keep them ‘out’ or hidden. This acceptance and integration that we can cultivate is a tool that benefits not only ourselves but also our interactions and relationships with others. It can bring a sense of calm, empowerment and renewed energy within us that has a domino effect throughout our lives.
Learning to “ride the bike”
I realize that this is generally easier said than done and I don’t offer any of these suggestions lightly. For me, the practice of the self is one that requires attention, patience and a whole lotta kindness. The metaphor of riding a bike works pretty well here and all the qualities of: focus, consistent practice, encouragement, repetition, willingness, effort and…. falling over.
When we first learned to ride a bike we might have gotten frustrated, had a bit of a cry, felt scared or even fallen but somewhere in the process we simply needed to take a breath, trust and try again. We didn’t typically accept that falling over was all there was to it and stop there.
Accepting and loving our selves without question is similar in this way. First we need to recognize there is something beyond our conditioned patterns to move towards. To a certain degree I am not even sure we are aware of this ‘self -practice’ that can help cultivate an all round more pleasant ride in our lives. Many of us have reached the point where we can at least function on autopilot so why fix something ‘if it ain’t broken’.
It’s as if we don’t realize we can cruise smoothly on our bikes and tend to think that constantly falling over every few feet is as good as it gets. But imagine the difference if falling became more infrequent and you could actually enjoy sailing downhill with your feet on the handlebars. Suddenly even the challenges of hills and traffic became more manageable or possibly nourishing.
When we engage the qualities of awareness, focus, willingness and kindness and apply them to our own personal growth…anything is possible.
If living with less stress, tension and criticism were possible would you choose to move in that direction?
If cultivating more self love and energy were within reach would you try or practice something different?
If yes, then try this.
Our ‘small stories’: Affecting Change
I read somewhere that ‘our small story can only sustain itself if it remains unconscious. Recognizing it is the beginning of the end.’
For me this means that actually becoming aware of our habitual patterns towards not fully accepting ourselves is the first step towards change.
~We realize that we have divisive habits that use up crucial energy and are not serving us.
~We realize that the habit of diminished self-acceptance can perpetuate the same behavior towards others in our lives.
~We acknowledge that we are capable of developing new habits that are more sustainable.
In order to affect change we must have clarity, keep it simple and on some level see it is achievable. This way we can decrease resistance, avoid gumption traps and maintain a sense of inner encouragement.
So, in learning how to ride this bike we start small and simple. You get to discover your own tweaks for what works best for your own personal environment.
Since we are focusing on self-acceptance of all parts of our selves this is where we will hone our attention. At some point during your day (perhaps just before bed) take a few minutes to survey the range of your thoughts and feelings and see if there are any moments you notice a lack of self acceptance or a diminishing thought about some part of yourself.
Just notice it and see if you can take a breath with it and find some way to perfectly accept and acknowledge without judgment this feeling or thought. Try to create a field of acceptance without question and embrace this ‘part’. Notice what this type of acceptance feels like in your body…the sense of it. And that’s all. You can do this with as many thoughts as you have the energy to fully find acceptance for and when you feel complete (even if this is after just one)….you simply let it go.
Creating a memory for the felt sense of acceptance is powerful. It’s like programming a computer or building a bridge….as you practice it allows more access to your ability to create acceptance.
This practice may sound too simple but it is amazingly potent to begin by accepting the parts that are often the ones doing the bullying. This small act can set a trend towards getting to know what this type of acceptance feels like in your body, creating a memory to access it more easily in the future and building bridges for integrating all your different parts no matter what they look like. It also flips the ‘game’ or conditioning on it’s head. We generally play out these habits in a particular way and if we can interrupt the usual M.O. then we open up the gates for other possibilities.
This is the laboratory of you….and you are the genius within it all. You never know what you might discover….experimenting with the practice can uncover new truths, solve old mysteries or perhaps just give you wings for flying on that bike of yours.