What could be more appropriate after discussing the authentic self, than the discussion of practicing self-acceptance? Marianne Williamson says:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.”
And I very much agree with what Cormac McCarthy has to say. While speaking of courage, he hits on both awareness of one’s true self, and acceptance of that self (or lacks thereof):
“All courage is a form of constancy. It is always himself that a coward abandons first. After this all other betrayals come.”
It is a phenomenon of a wealthy society that we can even contemplate the notion of self-acceptance. That said:
Self-acceptance is a form of unconditional love. It is lovingly embracing the “needs improvement” and “unsatisfactory” along with the “excellent” and “satisfactory” on our internal report-card.
If we kid ourselves and choose to either believe that “it’s all good” as the saying goes, or conversely that it’s all crap, we are all crap — we are not being authentic with ourselves. We are living in delusion and fooling only ourselves. It is not a productive way to live.
Very few of us do not have our delusions, oh by the way.
On the extreme that tends towards the “it’s all crap” side, the gap between what we might refer to as the realm of the “coulda/shoulda/woulda’s,” the NISTs (refer to last week’s blog), and what one feels capable of, versus what we perceive as actually accomplished can feel great. The subsequent self-disappointment might make self-acceptance a prized achievement rather than a natural “given.” Through this aberrated lens, we rarely accept the self — it can always be somehow more, better, worthier.
At the other extreme, the “it’s all good” stance may birth arrogance and self delusion that can overtake an individual — sort of hiding behind the smiling mask; nothing can ever be wrong! The self is invincible, always right in some way or another. Self acceptance is a given. I like to think that most people really don’t dwell full-time in either of these extremes, but for the most part view their individual internal report card more objectively, aware of their full spectrum of “marks.”
By the way, this review/report card idea in the self-acceptance process is not about bringing up The Judge. We can be such harsh judges of ourselves, can we not? So how is this done truly lovingly and not with harsh judgment?
Be kind. Be kind to yourself. Be the loving parent to your growing self.
Self-acceptance is not about complacency. It is the sister-step in practicing Authenticity. As in all things there is a balance point to be struck; in this case between acceptance and improvement. And it is not a static point, it is often a balancing act — always moving. Acceptance doesn’t mean unchanging, rather to embrace lovingly what you cannot or choose not to change now. Change what you want to when you are able. The rest will have to wait. The balancing act continues.
An example: I accept that I have seizures. Epilepsy. This is a multi-faceted fact that presents obstacles and limitations in many different areas of my life. So I have had to respond in different ways. There are ways I can and have improved my personal universe. There are ways I have not, and in some instances believe I cannot. (There is no cure for epilepsy). There are other items that are still in the gray area: I just don’t know if I have the ability to change/improve them — or I am just not yet ready to confront them. I have not accepted many of the limitations traditionally placed upon people with epilepsy. Some of these are culturally instigated, others medically. My questioning of such “limitations” has caused concern for some people in my family. It has been trial and error, and I have made mistakes. Yet I learned for myself what my limits in this area were, and they too are not static but evolve as circumstances, medications, and seizure cycles change. I take my medication faithfully and deal with the side-effects (not always uncomplainingly). I try to balance personal safety with a certain quality of life. Just when I believe I have achieved a certain satisfactory balance, it can change again. At times this constant challenge feels lonely.
So, how does one acknowledge and respond to: this is my current reality, this is who I am now. How might I move forward? Do I even want to move forward? Is there room for improvement? Do I want to aspire to something more or different?
The responses to the above can form the harmony point between lovingly embracing the critical self-awareness, one’s acceptances and one’s work at self-improvement. It is a dynamic self-acceptance versus a denial as a false form of self-acceptance and blinkered self esteem that, too often, justifies unproductive behaviors and/or situations and relationships.
At one point while contemplating the practice of self-acceptance, something I knew was very important to moving with True Beauty in everyday life and living, I started asking around. How did others think about self-acceptance? Or did they? During this inquiry it was suggested to me that women and girls have a more acute issue with self-acceptance than do males. I’ve done no research to verify this, but I strongly suspect its true. The media in all its forms projects such strong and pervasive ideas and ideals about the feminine. Well, mostly about feminine physical appearance. Much has been written and observed about this over the past few decades; but it has hardly changed. You have only to walk through a high school to know that.
It is hard not to compare and contrast our own appearance with the images out there. We elevate the likes of actresses and reality “stars.” The rest of us women do not have hair & makeup minions fluttering about for two hours before our first appearance into the day. We are not able to airbrush ourselves before leaving the house. Is it any wonder our young women get confused about where their worth originates — in the constancy of character, grace and ability or simply a particular physical appearance?
And then, as one rather stiff-upper-lip sort of person put it, “Well you just do accept yourself, don’t you? What choice do we have?”
To practice acceptance of oneself:
1) Listen to your body and your intuition and notice where you are resisting.
2) Be fully present with the choices that are available. Choose mindfully, with authenticity and compassion.
3) Think of “failure” as another word for “rehearsal.” Trial and error is the way of artists and scientists.
4) Remember: everyone is doing their best from their point of view and level of awareness — including you.
5) Where necessary, forgive. Especially yourself.
So, what role does self-acceptance have in reclaiming True Beauty into our sensibilities and our culture? Again: as within, so without. The more accepting and loving we are of ourselves, the more accepting and compassionate we are liable to be of others.
One of the seldom mentioned keys to the spiritual life is acceptance. Not acceptance of others but of ourselves. So often we focus on what we want to change…lessen our character defects…. What if we are acceptable even in the times we have difficulty accepting ourselves? …The poet Theodore Roethke …tells us: ‘in a dark time, the eye begins to see.’ ” ~ Julia Cameron