Self Acceptance is such a tricky one to get down. We spend so much time asking what’s wrong with us, and how we can improve this ‘wrong’, and little to no time just coming to terms with who we are. When we encounter situations where things don’t go how we expected them to go, we berate and beat ourselves up, picking ourselves apart and pushing our self esteem lower than it already is instead of neutrally looking at the situation, drawing constructive conclusions, and moving on to do better. We spend more energy on hating, ignoring, and hiding aspects of ourselves instead of just… being ourselves. Funnily enough, we get uset when people treat us that way, yet we treat ourselves like it all the time!
Now, you know my view. We need to be taught techniques and given tools that help us to understand how our minds work, coupled with normalisaing the practicing of authenticity. But the fact is, we’re not given the tools we need as children to understand HOW to accept ourselves, so we end up in midlife crisis struggling with the ultimate question of how did I get here and how do I accept myself as I am?
Welcome, to Part 2 of this Self-Acceptance two-part series. I encourage you, if you’ve missed Part 1, to check it out before you read on! Last week, we covered the questions of Why can’t I accept myself? And What is self-acceptance anyway? I also gave you quite a bit of food for thought for you to go away with.
This week, we’re going to get into the concrete exercises so you can start easing yourself into a place of self acceptance.
Before we do that, though, I need you to understand that self-acceptance requires continuous work on your part. This blog isn’t going to do all the heavy lifting, that’s on YOU! But, the more you get to know yourself, the more there is that you need to come to terms with, and the more you understand, the more you realise, there is also so much of you to accept. From your head down to your toes, your behaviours, your moods and those mood swings you’re tired of, the habits you’ve picked up as you’ve grown, your speech patterns, your thought patterns, the way you do the dishes… Ok, maybe not the dishes. But you get what I mean. The list is long, but I think you get the idea Let me tell you what I got to understand… the more you spend time learning yourself, giving yourself grace and permission to accept who you are, the more you will realise you are a beautiful human, inside and out who deserves to treat themselves better.
Let’s dig in!
So listen, let’s put things into perspective. You’re not going to do these exercises and wake up tomorrow a brand new person. BUT… if you integrate these exercise into a daily practice, you’ll find yourself developing thought patterns that disrupt the negative, and support an accepting internal world. You will find yourself coming to terms with who you are, instead of fighting yourself. So commit to the process, and know that things will definitely get easier for you from here. Sound good? Ok, let’s get into it.
Forgiving is not forgetting, let’s get that straight. And forgetting is not healthy. When we forget, we overlook important lessons that we should absolutely take away from mistakes, missteps, injustices, that we’ve committed against ourselves or others, either perhaps intentional or callous actions and even situations we allowed ourselves to be in because of choices and decisions that we’ve made. Plus, let’s face it. You wouldn’t really be forgetting (barring some catastrophic event that affects your memory). You would just be burying the memory away so you don’t have to deal with it.
Not. Healthy. At. All. You know that! You also know the things you try to bury don’t stay buried. They come at you, in ways you won’t expect, at the worst time possible, and it’s never pretty. Think unexplained anger, depression, low self-esteem, and a host of other issues you don’t want to be dealing with.
Forgiveness on the other hand… well, its benefits are touted for a reason. Forgiveness allows you to acknowledge a wrong and let go of the resentment you have towards the person or persons you hold responsible. It liberates you from the weight of negative emotions. It gives you control over your life, by stopping past events from dictating how you act, react, and feel.
Self-forgiveness works in exactly the same way. When you forgive yourself, you can truly free yourself from the idea that you are “bad”. Whether you’ve let yourself or somebody else down, hurt yourself or someone else, or simply done something that you’re not proud of, by forgiving yourself, you can separate YOU, as a whole, from the isolated acts that have come to define you (in your eyes, obviously) as a person.
I can hear your question now. But JJ… How do I forgive myself? Keep reading, we’re getting to it.
First of all, DECIDE. Decide to give yourself permission to forgive yourself. When you decide, it means, you are going to go all in and remove other options. You are going to give yourself full permission to do the necessary in order to forgive yourself. Say it out loud…
I decide to give myself the permission to forgive myself.
Doesn’t that feel freeing? Like you’ve taken back a piece of control, right? Yeh. Let’s start this process on a high where you are being intentional and taking control of your emotions. Let’s start as we mean to go on. Then take a second to think about the power you, that you can literally forgive yourself and LET GO, of the negative feelings towards yourself. Let that really sink in. You have the right to seek forgiveness for your actions, from you. Decide to give yourself permission to go ahead and exercise that right.
Second of all, acknowledge the situation and the reasons for it. Not excuses, but reasons. This is really important. It’s not about trying to paint yourself as the “good guy” in the situation. It’s simply reminding yourself of what happened, and the WHY and HOW behind it. There will be reasons why you did what you did, said what you said, allowed, what you allowed. This reminds me of being in a turbulent relationship. What happened wasn’t all on me, but, I did see red flags…and, well, I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want to feel rejected, so I downgraded the red flag to ‘amber’. I had to forgive myself for allowing myself to stay in a situation that wasn’t healthy for me. I’m not taking responsibility for anyone’s behaviour, except my own. Truth is, I could have walked away before things escalated, but I made a decision not to. The escalation resulted in one of the most difficult things that I had to forgive myself for. So when I share this blog, I’m not telling you anything I haven’t put into practice myself. I want you to know that.
Now, let’s get back to your situation. Put the situation within the wider context of the why, and just feel the weight of what happened. This isn’t a comfortable process by any means, especially the first time you do it, because it requires you to stare something you’ve been shying away from dead on. You may feel shame, guilt, remorse, or any other host of negative feelings when you do this. That’s part of the process.
Now, formulate an apology to yourself. Don’t make up excuses for what happened. Simply acknowledge the wrong, and apologise. You’ve owed yourself the apology for so long, it’s time to just step up and give yourself your dues. Look yourself in the mirror, look into your eyes, see your human reflection, and apologise.
Finally, make a list of what you can learn from the situation. It’s not enough to apologise. You need to know that next time, you’ll do better, and you need to learn from that experience in order to do better the next time it crops up (or avoid putting yourself in that situation again). Also, when you list the lessons learnt, you make the situation mean something. It gives it importance and it is easier to forgive yourself when you know you’ve learned something valuable from the situation.
It’s time to turn kindness inwards. You know how you treat people with kindness and understanding, you give an explanation for other people’s actions, and give them the benefit of the doubt? You know how you always do your best to understand where someone else is coming from, and empathise with them?
Well, now it’s time to do that for yourself. You know how, you do it all the time for other people.
We know that life gets tough. Things don’t always work out how we want or how we planned. We’re not always proud of ourselves at the end of the day.
That person who called you and tried to sell you car insurance and you bit their head off and called them a name and hung up… then felt terrible and couldn’t call them back… Forgive yourself and practice self-compassion… ( or was that just me).
But seriously, instead of beating yourself up about it, talk to yourself as you would to a person that you love. When you encounter a rough situation, give yourself the grace of acknowledging the difficulty, and letting yourself know that you empathise with you. You feel for you. Give yourself the words that you need to soften the blow of what’s happening, to minimise the emotional impact of the events. Only you know what you need. Whether it’s “I’m not stupid, it was just a difficult assignment”, or, “I just had some bad news and was having a really hard day”, it happens.
Tell yourself what it is you need to hear…”I need to relax a bit and give myself time to reset”, give yourself the words that you need to hear that will make you feel supported. You can be the supportive friend you need. Be your own best friend!
Manage your self-talk
This one requires patience and tenacity.
Do you ever take a moment to listen to your internal dialogue? If the answer is no, give it a try. The next time you interact with someone else, listen to what you’re saying to yourself. Most of it will be statements about how negatively the other person perceives you. When I learned to tune in to my inner voice and really listen to it… I was SHOOK. I knew I had a tendency to beat myself up, but when I really listened, I realised how absolutely shocking my internal dialogue was. And it’s not just me. I have a client who realised that she would continuously tell herself that she was better off ending it all every time a small misstep would happen, and would repeat to herself that she should be ashamed of how ugly she was every time a person would look at her. When she woke up to what the voice was telling her, she was in tears at how cruel she was to herself.
Now, your negative self-talk might not be as extreme, but believe me, it is there. And you need to catch it in its tracks, and reverse it. If the internal chatter is overly negative and you leave it unattended, there is no way you’re going to truly embrace yourself. It won’t matter how many ‘self-love’ books you read, or bubble bathes you take, or gifts you treat yourself to. There will always be a clear conflict.
To manage your self-talk, you need to first of all be willing to listen to what you’re saying to yourself. Make a decision to really listen to what story you are telling yourself, and acknowledge the impact of your words. You might be upset by what you hear. That’s good. The first step of turning negative self-talk into positive self-talk is truly realising how devastating the negative self-talk is and deciding to change.
Once you’ve tuned in and really understood the internal talk, intentionally come up with phrases that counter that negative self-talk by easing yourself into something that isn’t accusatory, isn’t shaming but is believable and realistic and repeat them to yourself. Example, if you’re narrative is, I’m stupid and will never be able to achieve anything or buy my own home, and make my kids proud,.. maybe you can consider replacing it with… I’ve raised a child, a whole other human being who is amazing. I’ve kept food on the table and held down a job, even when I didn’t feel like it, I still did it. I might not own my own home, but I manage to keep the lights on. I’m doing something to be proud of everyday.
Make sure you keep tuning in and listening to yourself. You’ll catch a staggering amount of negative messaging, from doubt to downright hateful. Keep chipping away at it, stop and check how realistic your narrative is. I learned a phrase from my last amazing guest speaker in my inner circle, Doreen Powell, a Senior CBT therapist who said.. Take the thought to court! Would the narrative hold up in a courtroom? Is there any fact in it? Check what the fact represents! Once you are able to inject realism into your messaging, you can work your way up to more positive, beautiful, supportive self-talk.
Celebrate your strengths
I love finishing things off with celebrations, of course I don’t mean the chocolates (…in case my PT reads this). Ending your processes and practices with a celebration can give you a boost, but also a ‘big up yourself’ just feels good. Try it! Celebrating!
OMG.. Did I just hear you say you don’t have strengths? I’m gonna have to tell you to step away from the pity party! You down right have got strengths. There’s no way you got this far without having strengths, I don’t care who you are and what your circumstances are. There are things that you do better than others… you probably don’t even realise it.
Like, the way you match your clothing with your accessories, you just have an eye for style, the way you decorated your home, by yourself! You got mad skillz, the way you are on time to everything, wow, that’s an amazing quality, that time when you built that bookshelf you picked up from Ikea? And that time you baked a lemon drizzle..TO DIE FOR! Don’t tell me you ain’t got skills that pay bills!
Now, go ahead and list those strengths. Your tenacity, your perseverance, your kindness, your oral hygiene, I don’t care what goes on that list. The more strengths the better. List away, and keep going until you’ve run out of strengths to list.
And celebrate them. Let it sink in that you have these amazing strengths, be proud of them, acknowledge the positive impact that they’ve had on your life, and on the lives of others. Think about what you can do to celebrate yourself, bake another cake, enjoy an extended soak in a bubble bath, book a foot massage, and then… go back to that same mirror, look yourself in the eyes and thank yourself for being imperfectly, perfectly, you and for bringing yourself this far. Tell yourself, the nice things you are going to do for you are an investment in your future self and the nice words you will speak to yourself are going to bring you closer to the person you want to become.
All right Queen, I know that was a lot, but… There’s actually so much more than I could say, but let me do it in my Self-Acceptance Masterclass which I want to give to you for FREE.
And if you’re looking to take things to the next level, you can access courses like this and so much more, from self-acceptance and starting to love yourself more, to self-employment and starting your own business! All of this, and more is inside my inner circle, The Confidence Queens Academy. The doors are open for a limited time, so now’s your chance to jump in there and get started on your journey to living the life you deserve.
Fix your crown.