Sometimes All You Need Is a Listening Ear
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” Carl Jung
Self-acceptance seems like such a challenge. Everybody likes the idea. It sounds really appealing, but most of us haven't a clue as to where to start.
Self-acceptance does seems like a tall order. I mean, there are so many things wrong with you right?
Your wealth (or lack thereof)
Your negative thoughts
Your endless worries
The things left undone
The unfulfilled dreams
That degree you never got
The promotion you got passed over for
The girl/guy you blew it with
You should be way further along by now
I know I'm suppose to love and accept myself but how can I? "How can I accept myself when I fall so far short of my own expectations? If I could just improve a little... maybe then?"
Even not being able to accept yourself is a great reason to... uh... not accept yourself. It's a world class double bind. So let's start with something simpler Let's start with something less absolute sounding, something that isn't yet another requirement we can fail at. How about a little self-compassion?
Compassion is a very different thing, and a much simpler one. You simply cut yourself a little slack. Yep, you have fallen far short of all those dreams and expectations. Guess what? You're human. We humans fail... a lot! We let ourselves down. We shoot ourselves in the foot and then we stick that foot in our mouths. We all want to hide and hope that no one finds out what a mess we really are. It is not a personal problem. It is the human condition. WE ALL FEEL THAT!
So, to put it more succinctly. You DON'T have to accept yourself. In fact, you can totally reject yourself. You just have to be with yourself. Which you are anyway.
Compassion: a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.
What is compassion?
You want to be better right?
You want to help yourself
You want to take care of yourself
You want the best for yourself
Guess what, that is compassion.
Congratulations... you succeeded.
Notice that it says it is a feeling of wanting to. You don't have to actually do it. In fact, oftentimes, you can't. Often there is nothing you can actually do. You just have to want to. Which you already do.
It is really that simple. Like when a friend needs something. You just want to help. Maybe they did something really stupid. But, for a little while anyway, you overlook that. They are suffering enough already. You don't have to point out what they already know so well. So you are just with them. Just being a friend, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a safe place to feel broken.
You do not have to accept yourself.
You do not have to learn to love yourself.
You don't have to keep a stiff upper lip or a positive attitude.
You don't need to practice some kind of self-improvement technique.
How about just listening to yourself, like you would a friend.
Self-rejection is the belief that love has to be earned
All self-rejection comes from this rather ugly and virulent belief. But this preposterous notion was not original equipment. We are not born self-rejecting monsters. We are innocent babes that fully expect to be loved, adored even.
We expect to have our every need met and anything less is organically confusing to the little one. Rare it is when the baby is not cherished by the mother who's only delight is fulfilling every need of the little miracle she has been feeling inside her and now feels in her arms. Ever her body is designed to meet the needs of this tiny wonder. We are this helpless, lovable little creatures. Every thing we do is adorable. Every sound is music.
But, somewhere along the line, the scene begins to change. Restrictions get laid on. Limits are imposed. Some behaviors become unacceptable. To the little one, the correction of behavior is regarded as a rejection of itself. Love is no longer unconditional. It now has to be earned. This is the beginning of self-rejection or, as I sometimes call it, Soul Disconnect.
That little one was (and is) you. You are now simply playing the role of the stern parent disallowing, and even punishing, your own behavior. Rejecting yourself right along with the offending thoughts, feelings or actions. But compassion can bring an end to that. You can become the listening and accepting ear that creates the atmosphere of self-acceptance.
I'll talk more about how to do that in the next blog "Self- Compassion and the Yoga of Allowing." Until then just try listening (a.k.a. feeling) whatever you happen to be feeling with the non-judgmental attitude of a good friend. Just try. You will find it is easier than you thought.
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