I’ve had a lot of hits on my post about self-acceptance being a pre-requisite to self-love, and a lot of those have been people that were also searching for the term NA (Narcotics Anonymous). This leads me to believe (and I would certainly welcome any who found me through those search terms to comment and provide me with some feedback!) that self-acceptance is a huge part of the recovery process from substance dependence/abuse. That being said, it’s not just for people in recovery – it’s something that I truly believe is for everyone. A good bit of time has passed since I wrote that post, and I’ve had more experience with the process of self-acceptance, so I thought I’d take some time to share more of my personal experience with it.
Self-acceptance is a process. Did you get that? It’s a process. It is not a one-time-get-it-done-and-it’s-done-forever deal. I’ve found that as soon as I learn to accept myself in one moment, something will inevitably come up later that will show me some other pieces(s) of me and/or my behavior and choices I’ve made that I have to deal with and work through. I’ve mentioned before here that my partner is a theta healer, and during my healing sessions with her, I almost always find things that I would identify and label as ugly that are lurking around in my head or that were the fuel for poor choices I have made or patterns of behavior that I have been, up to that point in time, unable to figure out and change. A “technique”, for lack of a better word, that I’ve begun employing is that of witnessing these things, standing apart from them and recognizing that they are not who I am. I want to be clear that this is not a form of denial – I own fully and take full responsibility for the fact that these thoughts are in my head, that the choices are choices I have made. The difference comes by not attaching these things to my identity as a being, not defining my Self by them. Witnessing them allows me to stand in a more objective point of reference, free of judgment. So when I find them, I can take any stance from, “Hmmm…isn’t that interesting” to downright laughing at them.
All that being said, witnessing in this way is also not easy. I slip up a lot and fall back into that judgmental thinking and exclaim things like, “Shit – I sound so horrible!” And when I do, I try to catch myself, I breathe, and I try to move back into a space of non-judgment. Our society and most people in it train us to think that we are what we do, what we think, etc. This simply is not true. Attaching these sort of things to our identity feeds our ego (here, I’m using the term ego the way that Eckhart Tolle uses it in his book A New Earth) and allows our ego to have control over us instead of it being the other way around.
I firmly believe that we each create our own reality. This can sound damning to some and can spark a defensive reaction – truth be told, I don’t really care. It is what it is. Because we create our own reality, we have the power to change it if we want. And while certain things may not be able to be changed, we can change how we choose to interact with them.
There are certain things that threaten self-acceptance, and I see one of the most significant as maintaining a victim stance and victim energy. If you’re not sure if you’re in this space, here are a couple hints: 1) if you’ve said to yourself, ‘but it’s not my fault!’ or ‘yeah, but my life’s a lot harder than yours’ or, ‘I didn’t create this mess!’ or something similar at any point through the course of reading this post, 2) if the part about creating our own reality hit your ‘fuck you button’, or 3) if the dominant emotion you’re feeling (now or in general) is self-pity then you probably got yourself stuck in victim energy. You chose victim energy. And just as you chose it, you can un-choose it.
I’m a practicing Witch. Scott Cunningham (one of the most fabulous people to ever walk this planet) compiled a list of 13 goals for a Witch. And while these are specifically directed to Witches, I believe the very first one is pertinent to all people of whatever life style, religion/spiritual affiliation, background, etc. It’s “know yourself.” Knowing your self is a crucial piece of accepting your self. And besides that, knowing your self means knowing how to differentiate what is really you from what’s just behavior or thoughts that you ‘put on’ that might describe about you but do not define you. Changing anything about you can be difficult but is very possible. But just like how people suffering from any kind of substance abuse or dependence need to hit rock bottom and get to a point where to stay the same is more painful and more uncomfortable than changing, so it is with any kind of change.
I want to reiterate that self-acceptance is a process. It’s a path, a choice that needs to be made over and over and over again. It’s work, but it’s work that holds unestimable value. 🙂