Have you ever started an internal dialogue with a statement along the lines of “I wish I was more…” or “I wish I was less…” “I wish I was better at…”
More, less, better, faster, stronger…always telling yourself you’re not enough…
I’m going to let you into a secret… you ARE enough.
If you’re anything like me then I know you will find that a hard statement to accept. But I’m going to try and explain why I’ve tried to accept it.
I am deeply self critical. I often do not like the way I respond to certain stressors. My anxiety causes me to avoid certain circumstances which makes my life more difficult and creates self-imposed limits on my life.
In short, I really piss myself off sometimes!
But you know what, I’m starting to be okay with that. Okay, I’m trying to be okay with that.
I have read a lot over the years about self acceptance, particularly the idea that we should accept ourselves, warts and all with loving kindness. Whilst I endorse this idea, there is still a part of my brain that says, yes but what if you’re a dick?
An ex of mine freely accepted that he was an arsehole, like that somehow justified his behaviour. But him accepting that he is an arse doesn’t make it okay. (It still makes me cross if I think about it too long!)
I worry that complete acceptance of self can be seen as abdicating responsibility, like it’s okay to give up trying to do better, because I don’t think it is. (I always got could do better on my school reports. I think that stuck with me.)
That’s not what self acceptance is though, and it’s not what I’m encouraging.
As the years pass, I am starting to understand that accepting yourself for everything you are is not the same as resigning yourself to never changing or growing.
Complete self-acceptance and a desire for self improvement can co-exist.
Once we accept ourselves completely, warts and all, we almost wipe the slate clean. THEN we can start to work with those areas of our personalities we want to develop, instead of battling against them.
Let’s talk about Scarlet O’Hara
One of my yoga teachers themes her class with a book and recently she featured Gone with the Wind. She talked about how Scarlet spends the first chunk of the book desperately trying to be the classic Southern Belle, the demure, feminine hostess and wife. But this was all a huge battle against her actual personality. She was headstrong, outspoken, manipulative and far from dainty.
As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that these facets of her personality are actually essential to her survival.
By embracing herself, by giving herself permission to be who she is, she is able to survive the toughest of challenges life throws in her path.
So back to you, and me…
Think again about those parts of your personality you feel maybe don’t fit. How can you turn those to your advantage and make them work in your favour?
Fighting against yourself only causes internal conflict so switch things around. Instead of battling and raging against your own demons, call a truce and turn them into allies.
How does this work for me?
The biggest thing I dislike about myself is my self-perceived weakness in the face of anxiety. So how the hell do I turn that around?
I’m not going to lie, I’ve struggled to find the positives on this (I never said it would be easy!) and that is why I’m sharing it. I know I will always be vultnerable to anxiety but I would love to rid myself of the anxieties and self limiting thoughts, and I will never give up trying. But that’s the battle half side.
How can I accept this side of me and what positives can I take from this frustrating facet of my personality?
Well, my struggles have definitely made me into a more empathic person. Experiencing your own challenges makes you much more sensitive (in my experience) to other people going through similar journeys. So there’s that.
It also means that I am constantly reassessing myself, questioning my own behaviour in terms of whether that’s the sort of person I want to be. You just need to look at twitter to realise how lacking self-awareness is in the world.
People spend so long focusing on how they want to appear to the outside world and so little on whether that is actually what they want for themselves or whether that kind of behaviour aligns with their beliefs and values. I am lucky not to be burdened with pretending to be someone I’m not!
There’s a rule I use when I’m worrying about whether I have done something ‘wrong’ or if I’m not sure how to react to a situation. It keeps me honest!
If you can look yourself in the eye in the mirror and honestly say you are doing your best, or did your best with the information you had at the time (but maybe learned from your mistakes), then that is enough.
Thinking about this now, and then thinking about how some people have no awareness of their own emotions or the impact of their behaviour on others, or those who live in a world of self-delusion (we are all experts at self-delusion!), it makes me grateful that my personal challenges have given me self-insight.
We don’t have to be perfect all of the time. There is no such thing, but being honest with yourself is something we can do all the time, even if some times it’s really hard.
If that is the lesson my anxiety continues to teach me than I think I can make it a worthy friend after all.
I declare a ceasefire!
Want to join me?