It can be all too easy to make the mistake that, just because something is inside of you, you can do whatever you want to it. “It’s just a feeling, I can push past it” we might think. “I shouldn’t be afraid, I’m not a coward.” “I’m going to stick to my plan, no matter what!”
…”My feelings aren’t right”, we think, all too easily.
Why Not Accepting Yourself is a Problem
When you step all over yourself no matter how you feel, you might end up achieving a lot. You might make a lot of money. You might win a world record in pie eating. You might also end up with a stomach ache.
Your feelings have their own reason for being- sometimes your mind doesn’t have it all figured out. You may think you have it all figured out, but just remember, the same voice that says “This doesn’t feel right” can also say “I’m unhappy”. And the less you listen to it, the less happy you’ll be.
Nevermind the brainwashing you can do to yourself. If you’re a logical kind of person, you can end up thinking your way into doing whatever your logical side wants to do all the time. But maybe it doesn’t feel right. If you just stick with logic, you’ll get disconnected from life. You’ll trick yourself into thinking it’s right to live exactly as you are. But slowly the feeling of really being alive and free will trickle out of you. Maybe it already has.
Then look at the way this lack of acceptance manifests in everyday life. Parents who push their children to excel academically without listening to the child’s true interests. Fascist governments who try to force their people to act as they wish. Prejudice between groups of people who don’t meet each other’s standards. Controlling relationships, where one person ignores and deflects objections from the other, who never feels “good enough”. People who ignore their own feelings because they think to do so would be “selfish”.
Anywhere there’s lack of acceptance, this problem can rear its ugly head. But how can it be changed if you can’t just reject it?
Searching for a Solution
Maybe you noticed in the title I say you should bother to accept yourself. But if you don’t feel accepting, are you going to try to force yourself? That’s not acceptance either.
Can you see the problem? How can you accept yourself without telling yourself you should?
In any situation of a lack of acceptance, you need to come to terms with your reasons for feeling as you currently do. No matter if you want to accept yourself, lose weight, become a better person, or follow a dream. If you don’t start with where you’re at, how are you going to get anywhere? By forcing yourself?
At the very least, recognize this: your feelings hold you back for a reason. Once you stop to listen to that reason, to address its concerns fairly, you have a chance to act WITH your feelings rather than against them.
And remember, it is in that conflict, between your thoughts and feelings, that the truth of what action really feels right emerges. Not what you should do, not merely what you want to do, but what feels right to do. If either side is in total control, there’s gonna be problems, as far as I see it. Follow your fear and you become a coward, ignore your fear and you act like an idiot.
But there can be middle ground – there can be peace. Multiple sides of yourself can live in the same moment together, without losing their voice.
Finding Peace with Yourself
The following exercise will take you to a time you didn’t feel accepting or at peace with your own actions. It might be a feeling of shame, disappointment, uncomfortableness, annoyance, or outrage towards yourself for the way you were. You’ll then look at the feelings behind your actions at the time, and have a fair debate between your thoughts of what you should do, and how you really feel. Take out a piece of paper, document, or just think through it inside yourself. Steps in Blue are from thoughts, steps in Pink are from feelings.
- Think of a time you acted in a way you now feel disappointed about, ashamed of, uncomfortable with, or generally “not OK with”. What did you do? Write this down. (For example: “I Acted like a coward”)
- On the next line, write why you are not OK with this. (ex: “Because cowardice is bad and it caused more problems than solutions”)
- Now go back to your feelings from that time. What were your reasons for acting as you did? Write these down in a list, and be as honest as you can about it. (ex: “I was afraid of losing a friend” “I was afraid of dying”)
- Next, go down your list of reasons and write why each one is important to you. (ex: “Because I don’t want to be lonely and without my friend” “Because life is precious to me”)
- Think about if you have any problems with your reasons why each is important to you. Not your reasons for acting. Do you think badly of the things you feel are important? Write down yes or no, and an explanation. (ex: “Yes, you should be able to stand on your own two feet and not feel lonely. No, not really, life is precious and I respect that.”)
- Now respond to what you’ve just written, being honest with how you feel about it. Keep in mind how you felt when you wrote about how important your reasons are. (ex: “I don’t know how to stand on my own two feet yet, and it’s unfair of myself to demand that I know how when I don’t! I’m glad that I can understand that life is important and I’m not pushing myself to overcome my fear of death.)
- Finally, back in your thoughts, can you accept what you’ve just said? Can you accept yourself even if you don’t agree with your judgmental attitude? Can you let yourself off the hook? How can you live with yourself when you hold as important things that make you do things you dislike? Write as long as necessary between your thoughts and feelings till there’s peace between them once again. (Ex: “I didn’t know it was that hard for me to stand on my own two feet… I guess I can be patient. Maybe it’s important to be gentle about my standards, too.. Sorry for the trouble I’ve caused.”)
Hopefully this was a bit like airing out issues with an overly judgmental friend or parent. Do you feel a little more respect for yourself now, with all of your crazy emotions and decisions? I hope so! So, even if by now you don’t fully accept yourself, maybe you can start to see it’s possible. You don’t have to feel ashamed. What you found important enough to act on, at the times you did, you found important for a reason! It seems a little crazy to dis yourself for finding something in life important, don’t you think?
So, hopefully you can start to see it now, your judgment of yourself doesn’t have to lead your life. You can move beyond that condescending voice, however smart it might seem to be. If something makes you feel bad, question it! If it brings down your spirit, call it out and learn its reasons. You can do this, if you want to. Everyone can.
I hope this shed some light on this sometimes confusing issue.
And while there are lots of articles and books that might be appropriate to share, I’ll leave you with these two songs by P!nk instead. The first is for if you’ve ever felt less than perfect, the second a celebration of being whoever you happen to be.
Have a good one : )