No amount of self-improvement can make up for
any lack of self-acceptance.
- Robert Holden
It's easy to embark on any number of self-improvement projects; they are advertised and promoted everywhere by self-help gurus, magazines, books, webinars, blogs and Youtube videos. They promise a better body, a healthier mind, the possibility of being happy all the time, of being more productive, more successful, wealthier and more self-confident to name only a few. When you feel deficient or like something is missing, these possibilities are very seductive.
Yet if the foundation of how you feel about yourself is shaky, then attempts at self-improvement will only partially succeed. Just like a building needs a solid foundation, your inner world needs a solid core of self-acceptance and self-love on which to base any and all self-improvement. Then the decisions about what facets of your life to focus on will be grounded in your authentic self rather than an attempt to cover up or run from a less than optimal relationship with yourself.
Begin with an honest inquiry into how you truly feel about yourself. Do you accept yourself as you are, or is your acceptance conditional? Do you tend to criticize yourself or treat yourself tenderly and with forgiveness? This can be cultivated through attention, mindfulness, journaling, dreamwork, energy work, inner child work and therapy.
Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.
Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
and becomes itself transformed
into its radiant Jewel-like essence.....
- Jennifer Welwood
As the hours of darkness begin to slowly wane from the winter sky,
So too may the fearful places of your heart unclench their grasp on your life
As the presence of light begins to grow with greater sureness with each passing day
May your own courage blossom to open more brightly to truth and love.
Let this be the year that you turn off the television and silence the talk radio chatter
in order to pick up the writing pen, the paintbrush,
and watch the candle slowly burn.
May this be the year that you delight
in seeing how much joy you can extravagantly spread.
May you discover just how much beauty you can recklessly shower
upon this thirsty world.
May this be the year that you tune both the dusty piano in the corner
and the inner listening of your care-worn heart
So that both can play in harmony with the chorus of creation.
May you break the invisible yardstick of impossible expectations
and learn that just as you are,
you are enough.
May this be the year that you cease trying to march to an imagined ideal
and instead, wrap your arms around the messy wonder your life really is,
hold it close
and do the tango.
Let this be the year you befriend your soul in its radical particularity,
not forsaking it yet again for the bland demands and cravings of the masses.
Instead, may you elope with the wildness of your own true calling,
marry your soul to its deepest longings
and invite the hungry world to the wedding feast.
- Kayleen Asbo
It is no mystery
that those who endure
the most pain
are the strongest people
on this planet.
when hardship comes early,
it molds us,
the pain thickens our bones,
our marrow now golden plated
and lion tough.
I ask every one of you,
may we always stay strong,
through the loss of love and family,
through the sorrow and depression,
through the waves of imbalance,
may we lean on each other,
our shoulders a pillow for
we are all in this together
whether we choose to believe
that or not.
~ Christopher Poindexter
A grownup is
a child with layers on.
~ Woody Harrelson
There is a myth that we reach some point in life when we suddenly feel and are grown up. Clearly we grow and mature over time and pass from one generation to the next, yet there is usually an inner sense of not REALLY being grown up. The sense of self is fairly continuous from early childhood throughout life.
Much has been written about the 'inner child" and there is value in getting acquainted or reacquainted with the children of different ages who are very much alive within you, often unconsciously running the show.
There is the truest version of you, the pre-socialized baby, who was born into this world with an already distinct self and personality. What do you know about this self from family stories and photos? There are the children of many other ages who still show up in your daily life.
What do you know about your playful, impatient, smart, fearful, anxious, traumatized, creative selves? What ages are these different parts and how are they still part of you, in helpful or not so helpful ways? Is there still a rebellious teen alive in your daily life? Or a people pleasing good boy or girl? Are you fearful or confident because of early experiences that are still alive in your psyche? Is there a traumatized inner child who needs healing?
Are there early aspects of yourself you like and others that you push away? Have you become so accomplishment oriented and busy that you don't make time for playfulness or true relaxation? Which of your inner children need attention or space in your adult life?
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley