Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Self-Acceptance: The North Star of Personal Work

You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere.You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.                      ~Buddha

I love this quote. "You... as much as anybody...deserve your love and affection." 

Self-acceptance is the ability to, on one hand, hold our struggle, our imperfect messy human-ness AND on the other hand, hold the recognition that this is where we are right now.  It is a recognition of our efforts and a loving compassion for our human self who is struggling. 

As soon as we struggle without self-acceptance, we are likely to judge ourselves and fall into the shame pit. Judging, as in assessing and checking ourselves, is not without it's merits of course. As grown adults we should be able to take a moment and take stock of our behavior in any given situation, own up to our mistakes, take responsibility and move on. That's not what I mean when I talk about judging ourselves. This is the process I mean: 

Struggle (no self-acceptance) -->  judge like the harshest critic--> feel like shit --->  act like an ass/ be mean.

When we judge our self through the struggle, we are in the shame pit. We will most likely do one of two things: treat our self like shit or treat someone close by like shit. That's what I mean when I say, "act like an ass/be mean". (Yeah, some topics require swearing.)

Taking a moment to take stock of our behavior can still occur WITH self-acceptance. It actually won't be very productive if we are taking stock of our behavior and judging it like the harshest critic. This is how it works when we are a struggling as a messy imperfect human AND hold some self-acceptance. 

First, I struggle. I snap at my partner, I cut someone off in traffic, I harshly dismiss a child. (These are all immediate behavior examples, but you can use larger and harder struggles and it still works.) 

Second, I see I'm struggling and I say something like: "Ahh, look at me acting like a messy imperfect human." Maybe I can see myself with a little compassion and a little critical awareness. For example, "I'm feeling so frustrated or left out or unheard by that interaction earlier. I don't feel able to continue with my responsibilities (deal with said partner/ traffic/ child etc) and I want to just rest and reflect a little. This is hard. I'm struggling."

This is the MAGIC STEP and it actually has three sub-steps. 

1. AWARENESS: an active decision is made beforehand to be aware of my feelings/ behaviors with an open curiosity. 

2. PAUSE: I catch my self in the struggle and take a moment. 

3. RECOGNITION: I see what the struggle is (as in, the feelings and behaviors) and I name it.  

Third, I touch the place that's just below the struggle. I feel the tears well up or the long exhale. I find what is below the struggle and I hold my Self with a little reverence and compassion. "I'm trying. I am doing the best that I can. What can I let go of for right now so I can meet my needs for few moments?" 

Fourth, I can take care of my Self. I can see the unmet needs of the child or adolescent within. Maybe I need a tender touch from someone who loves me or maybe I need some solitude or a sense of freedom or fun. Can I meet this need in a small way right now? Can I look at how to get some long-forgotten needs met on a regular basis? 

THEN, fifth. I can take stock of my behavior and take responsibility. I can return to my partner or child and apologize. I can remember to let someone in next time there is heavy traffic. This is where the 'judging as-in assessing' comes in-- after self-acceptance. It's the only way to avoid the shame-pit.

But before you begin to tell yourself how unworthy you are because you just can't find your way to hold self-acceptance through struggle, let me say: This is a North star philosophy. Self-acceptance
through struggle, sits like the North Star in the sky. We will know if we are facing towards it or if we are facing away from it, but its not about reaching it. We don't reach an enlightened place of self-acceptance that feels like rainbows and sunshine and then call it a day. [Dusts hands] "Good, I can cross self-acceptance off my list!"

Self-acceptance is a cultivation and a practice. We move in the direction of self-acceptance. We face that way. We look for and find the North star even on the darkest nights and that is what self-acceptance does for us. It provides a direction within the dark times of struggle, self-loathing and despair. To be human is to struggle. There are always problems of some kind to move through. Finding the North star of self-acceptance in the struggle, that is the key to avoiding a fall into the shame pit.

Self-acceptance is something that we all long for. Our desire for it is so deep that we often look for it from outside our self. However, acceptance from others can never exceed the extent that we can accept our Self and so we must start there. 

Warmly yours,

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