Wednesday, May 4, 2011

...meeting yourself, just as you are, with acceptance...

Over the course of the years, I have discovered a magic trick.  It is a simple one, but for many, not an easy one.  Each of us can benefit from learning this simple slight of heart and mind. 

The magic is self-acceptance.  Accept yourself, appreciate yourself, have compassion for yourself and malingering problems can fall away.  Of course, as with any magic trick it takes work, time and practice to develop the skill.  Many of us carry around a secret cash of self-loathing carefully groomed by culture, capitalism and consumerism.  In order to command our allegiance and monetary disbursements giant corporations invest millions researching and articulating our vulnerabilities and nurturing our secret fear of not being good enough.  Our fears of not being acceptable are deeply ingrained.  It will take some time and patience to eradicate them.

You may find yourself thinking, "Well, this does not apply to me!"  It has been my experience that most of us resist acknowledging (even to our self) that we harbor pockets of self-loathing.  I recall once reading a comment from the Dalai Lama about how surprised he was at the levels of suppressed self-hate he sensed among people in the West.

Some of us were raised by parents, who though perhaps well-meaning, disciplined using shame.  "What's the matter with you now?"  "You're driving me crazy!"  "Don't be so selfish!"  "Your room is disgusting!"  Over the years shaming eats away at our self-esteem leaving us feeling worth less, shame full.  Without realizing it we live with a constant undercurrent of never feeling quite good enough and loathing our self as a result. 

Lack of esteem and lack of self-acceptance can lead to secondary issues of self-sabotage (because of not believing we deserve to succeed), failed relationships, gnawing depression, existential malaise.

Experienced therapists know it is not the school of therapy, the particular techniques used, the topics discussed, the past revisited that necessarily provide the most 'bang for the buck' in therapy.  Rather it is usually the relationship with the therapist that contributes more than anything else to healing and renewal. 

Why?  Because with a therapist who knows how to offer unconditional positive regard, who helps you see yourself as good enough, who accepts and appreciates your feelings, vulnerabilities, efforts, concerns, you begin to have a different experience of yourself.  You begin to see yourself through the eyes of the therapist - accepting eyes.  You learn about the work you need to do to feel healthy and whole and you begin to do the work with levels of self-compassion and self-appreciation heretofore unexperienced.

Therapy offering this kind of experiential correction in our view of self takes time.  In today's world of insurance that invariably pays only for short-term therapy, absorbing and integrating unconditional positive regard is not easily accomplished.  The good news is you can also develop self-acceptance and self-compassion on your own. 

Here are a few ways to do just that:

refuse to give room to the habit of being self-critical.  If you notice something you have done that you are not pleased with - ask yourself what you can do to correct the situation, and do it.  Then let it go.  Wallowing in calling yourself names and feeling bad about yourself just produces more of the same behaviors and offers more reasons for self-hate.

catch yourself doing something good and silently affirm yourself.  E.g. "Good on me!", or "Well that was not perfect, but it was sure better than the last time.  I'm making progress."   Just as you would deal with a hurt or damaged child, find things about which you can offer praise - but don't lie.  The praise and acceptance must be based in fact and truth.  Concentrate on finding what is praiseworthy about yourself.  And don't tell me there is nothing praiseworthy!  There is and you must step out of your self-critical rut to find it.

*  Jettison the idea of perfection and adopt the concept of good enough.  Of course, in certain areas of your life you will want to strive for excellence, but in a general sense learn to love yourself for being good enough, for being a human on planet Earth.

Here's a little exercise that incorporates findings from acupuncture, energy medicine and positive self-talk:

Find the sore spot that we all have on the upper left quadrant of your chest - somewhere in the heart region.
With two or three fingers gently rub this sore spot in a clockwise direction while at the same time affirming:  "With all my problems and limitations, I deeply love and accept myself." 

Apparently rubbing this spot on one of the acupressure meridians helps to remove any blockage in the movement of chi (life energy) throughout the meridian and affects our general perception of self.  It costs nothing, cannot hurt you and is definitely worth a try if you are dealing with a sense of worthlessness.  (It is best to do this in private.  :-)

After using the basic affirmation, you can eventually adapt it to specific situations

"Even though I did not do well on that exam, I deeply love and accept myself."

"Even though I am feeling depressed and lethargic, I deeply love and accept myself."

"Even though I made a huge gaff, I deeply love and accept myself."

"Even though I still harbor a lot of resentment, I deeply love and accept myself."

"Even though I think this is a stupid, useless exercise from Bonnie, and can not possibly help me,  I deeply love and accept myself."

"...telling the truth is often the seed that gives birth to love.  When we are able to honestly name our fear, our sadness, and confusion -- and when we can meet ourselves, just as we are, with acceptance and compassion -- then we cultivate the possibility of an authentic loving kindness toward ourselves.  Without truth, we may learn to accept who we appear to be, but what we are accepting is a lie.  Mindfully naming where we are stuck, frightened, or caught opens the door to genuine self-acceptance and loving kindness toward ourselves and others.

Jack Kornfield, a gentle teacher of Buddhist meditation, says that the essence of spiritual practice is self-acceptance:

"...It is the ground out of which any other freedom or understanding can come.  Our practice is to begin to listen to where we are closed to ourselves, to our bodies, our feelings, our hearts ... and out of this can come a very deep opening, and forgiveness, and healing of the heart.""

~ Wayne Muller
    Legacy of the Heart, p. 176

Further Reading:

Energy Psychology Interactive, David Feinstein, Ph.D., 2004
Energy Tapping, Fred P. Gallo, Ph.D., and Harry Vincenzi, Ed.D., 2002
Finding The Energy to Heal, Maggie Phillips, Ph.D., 2000
Compassion and Self-Hate: An Alternative to Despair, Theodore I. Rubin, M.D., 1975 (full of relevant, useful info despite the date of publication!)
Loving-Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Sharon Salzberg, 1995
Legacy of The Heart, Wayne Muller


  1. As always, straight to the heart. Like you said, this is an exercise. Meaning (to me, I suppose), that it takes practice, will be met by resistance. But, there is progress to be made. Some of that is knowing there are those like you out there. Blessings for another great post. EFH

  2. solid post bonnie...this def takes some practice as many of us dont realise the tapes we are playing until we really focus on them or they are pointed out to us...

  3. Your very informative post brings to mind a Greek Proverb...Don't keep any secrets of yourself, from yourself.

  4. Good post Bonnie. Self affirmation took me quite a few years. "God don't make no trash" and "To thine own self be true" were very helpful thoughts. Self loathing (anger) isn't bad either when you do believe in yourself, but slip for whatever reason. It can put you back on the right track.

  5. Expat: Thank you. Yes, it is a process and will be met with some resistance, but one can simply rub that spot and say: "In spite of the fact that I sometimes resist my own good, I deeply love and accept myself."

  6. Brian: So true! The tapes, as you say, are so deeply entrenched we are unaware of them. Sometimes it helps to try and trace the origins of a blue mood - invariably you can trace it back to some disparaging thoughts re self along the way.

    It does help to have someone point them out to us in a kind and gentle way. This is something we can do for our loved ones. E.g. "I've noticed that you seem very self-critical these days. Sometimes we need to challenge our thoughts about ourself."

  7. Wanda: I have never heard that Greek saying. Good advice - the problem is that we are so often completely unaware of what we are suppressing re self.

  8. L.W. Roth:

    Those are good mottos that help clear away self-critical thinking.

    Anger holds a lot of energy and can be a great motivator to action. I'm not so sure I would pair anger and self-loathing together. I have not observed much energy or motivation resulting from self-loathing. AND ... imagine the implicit message self-loathing is giving your inner communication systems - your very cells.

  9. excellent, much needed post! thank you

    808 554 5177

  10. I will bookmark this to share with others and try out the exercise you suggest. Very informative and wise. Thank you.

  11. To know and accept that I am better than good enough is a wonderful gift!!
    Well said for sure!!

  12. Cloudia: Glad you enjoyed it.

  13. Here Under the Rainbow: You are welcome.

  14. Slommler: It is a wonderful gift - and one we can give ourselves.

  15. Your wonderful posts always come at the exact right time for me, Bonnie! For years I never thought I could travel to France because my family said I couldn't afford it, why would you want to go, only rich people do that. Over the years I absorbed this and began to tell myself the same thing. This and other non-truths became my reality because I felt no self-worth and listened to other's fears.

    No more! The critical bitch in me still lurks around a tiny bit but does not control me anymore because I've practiced self love and have worked hard on overcoming thoughts that aren't true. And it gets easier like anything else you practice! Now I'm off to Paris in 2 weeks and will even stay a few days longer BY MYSELF.

    You write what I've felt or am feeling and I thank you for such an enlightening post! What a fabulous gift =-)

  16. Gwynnie: So nice that you share your experience from both sides of the dynamic. You are proof that feelings of 'not good enough' can be overcome - and what elation you feel once you do!! Thanks Gwynnie.

  17. Bonnie,

    this is such an important post. I will return in order to read it more fully. It certainly speaks to my experience, from somewhere around teenagerhood until only very recently. So much wasted time and energy spent filled with self-recrimination... part of it came from being a "good girl" and not allowing myself to criticize others or see their faults and problems and so internalizing that all the "blame" (for whatever problem) must lie with me. I look back over old journals and its incredibly sad.

    I think I'd been gradually growing out of that tendency for years but the shadow of the habit still clung to me. Some of what this last year's depression came from was related to this.

    My therapist had me do one session of the technique EFT that you outline here and at the time it was a challenge for me to actually say the words. I said to her, "well, I can say them, but that doesn't mean I mean them." And she said it was ok, to say them anyway, even if I felt dorky. I did and felt dorky, but I can't say that it wasn't one of the many helpful things I tried.

    This is a very thoughtful and compassionate post. What a nice refuge.

  18. neighbor: I am humbled and gladdened by your comment.

    I wrote a longer comment and somehow I managed to have it vanish. "Even though I do not seem to be able to keep up with my computer, I deeply love and accept myself." :)

    Since I am off to bed, I may add more tomorrow.

    Thank you again.

  19. wonderful images and beautiful words.

  20. Kim: Thank you. I'm happy you dropped by!

  21. I asked myself for a raise but was refused so I asked for a cash advance and again myself said no. I then asked for some peace and quiet and myself said he will babble as much as he wants. Which is why there's always a ruckus when I or myself attempt meditation. Tho me and myself are in total agreement - we like our art and the other stuff we do. Thankfully we also agree on not liking yard work and onions.

  22. i have to admit this makes me want to be sure i stop saying any of those blaming self-esteem robbing thing to my child.

    (and you are still right about the haiku.)


  23. Bill: Sounds like you and yourself have a fabulously interesting relationship! Thank goodness you agree on yard work and onions!!!:)

  24. julochka: Unfortunately for me, the deed (occasional shaming statements) is already done as my children are adults. I have talked to them about how any such statements they recall said way more about me than about them. Also told them I'd pay for therapy if they need it to recover - so far they have declined. :)

    Nice to know I am not alone in my reaction to the majority of haiku found in the blogosphere.

  25. Terrific photos here!! You have a lovely blog - Glad to have found you to follow!

  26. Sorry 'bout your lost comment Bonnie - same thing happened to me when I typed mine (several times on other blogs lately, too), but I've got a habit of copying all my message text before hitting the reply button; that's saved me several times.

    again, thanks for your post :)

  27. Linda: And your following allowed me to discover you and your beautiful blog, of which I am now a follower! Wonderful photography and editing to be found there peeps!

  28. neighbor: thanks for your thoughtful insights.

    I think my lost response spoke to how most people introduced to EFT (the tapping on meridians technique) have a similar response of feeling like it is some silly, new-agey exercise designed to embarrass them. I have noticed feeling slightly embarrassed when I introduce it to people. :)

    That affirmation for reversal of energy is one where you should not worry about how true it feels and simply say it anyway. It seems when the energy block or reversal is attended to, we are more open to the idea of self-acceptance. So, anyone reading this, persist despite your doubts or 'feeling dorky' as neighbor describes.

    Another thought in response to your comment neighbor: Dr. John Sarno, MD has written about personality types he calls "goodists" (I too was trained to be one - even given the name, Bonnie, which means 'good'). He says these are often the people who have a cache of repressed rage, due to the imperative to be 'good' all the time ... AND that it is the repressed rage that causes a lot of our depression and chronic body pain/illness - because a lot of our repressed rage is directed at self. His book 'The Divided Mind' is worth a read to see if his theories might hold a clue as to the source of depression/illness.

    Hope you check back here to read this late response!

  29. Bonnie,

    thanks for the follow-up. Today I came back, looking for this post in particular, having said something mean to Kestral yesterday out of mindlessness. I apologized later but... well, you know, the damage was done and the habit of "oh I'm such a jerk, there's no way to fix this" insists on hanging around.

    I did the exercise, will do it again - since I apparently have no ingrained ability to deal with this kind of thing in a self-forgiving way. Morning writing brought up the voice that I apparently have long-listened to that says punishment is the only way to make up for mistakes. oh. I don't know where I got that one!


    but thank you for providing alternatives to the poor conditioning. I'll keep trying.

  30. Simply....thank you, for the words, the wisdom, the pictures. All very special.


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