- THE CONCEPTS
If there is a daily practice that is money in the bank when it comes to self-acceptance and its role in personal development, that practice is to continually challenge what we think we’re supposed to be, and wrap ourselves in the gigantic phenomenon of who we actually are.
Here’s a dynamite quote from the one and only, Mr. Carl Rogers on the matter:
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
I love Rogers’ work and think his brilliance is reflected in this quote. At the same time, I think it’d be easy to read that and quickly imagine the ‘self’ as a static object we learn to accept for what it is.
For our conversation, I want us not to think of ‘the self’ as an object we can unearth and possess. In other words, that quote is full of gold, yet let’s not misconstrue the task of self-acceptance as a gold mining expedition or we’re done before we begin. While that type of individual depth work is powerful and can be very healing, it is far too expansive for this context. If you’d like to talk more about that type of work, my door is open.
For now, I want us to primarily be concerned with a functional definition of ‘the self.’ ‘Functional’ like Coaches need all their players to function and do their jobs. In this conversation, ‘you’ are your actions, not your intentions. ‘Put it on tape’ is an expression we can borrow from Coaches who need to reinforce this view with their players. Hence, let’s think of the ‘self’ in terms of what it does.
In other words, until I see it happening on the game tape (i.e. MY FRIGGIN LIFE), it ain’t happenin.’
Let’s welcome Integrity into the conversation. Integrity works nicely with self-acceptance. Some immediately think about the type of integrity that C.S. Lewis spoke of: “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching.”
I won’t dispute that for a second, but I’m looking at a different definition. Consider Integrity as a state of being whole or undivided- like a perfect circle. I believe this works well with self-acceptance because it’s very easy to consciously or unconsciously avoid accepting (or even acknowledging) aspects of ourselves that aren’t congruent with who we think we are or would like to be in the world.
Think of all the handy ego defense mechanisms we employ to avoid facing things we’d rather not look at; repression, denial, displacement, projection, and loads of others for your Googling pleasure.
Still with me? Need a snack? No. Cool. Let’s proceed!
So with all these handy defense mechanisms at our disposal, with all the social comparison that we engage in that bombards us with messages about who we ‘should’ be to have a sense of self-worth…what the shit do we do with this mess, tough guy!?!
I’m going to break it on down, but first…
A quick aside before we launch.
It’s none of my business what your spiritual or religious beliefs are, AND it’s clearly not my place to put a system of morality together and preach it.
It is, however, my ongoing intention to find tools for our conversation that are clear, concise, consistent AND allow us to be able to go to the depths and heights of any topic we need to cover in this vast galaxy of personal development.
The currency we spend in Functional Self-Acceptance & Integrity is consciousness. This currency buys the action and growth we seek!
In Buddhist Psychology, one way they speak of Consciousness is in terms of seeds. SEEDS. Like the seeds that produce flowers, corn, or various poisonous plants in the plant kingdom.
Just like in the plant kingdom, there are many different kinds of seeds that lie deep within our consciousness.
Anger, Violence, Discrimination, Hate, Jealousy, Despair, they are all within each of us. When they are dormant, we are ok. But if we, someone else, or conditions around us water those seeds, they will manifest and make us suffer.
Thankfully, we also have ‘wholesome’ seeds in us! The seeds of Understanding, Compassion, Non-violence, Non-Discrimination, the seeds of Joy and Forgiveness, they are also within each of us! If we don’t practice feeding these seeds like we train our muscles, they will not grow.
Countless other models of psychology use similar maps to outline a comprehensive view of our capacities to experience both lightness & darkness. Sigmund Freud put forth subconscious and ‘the unconscious mind’ as a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories outside of our conscious awareness that are primarily unacceptable to the conscious mind. Carl Jung put forth ‘the shadow’ aspect of personality to represent the ‘unknown, murky, irrational, disowned dark-side’ that exists in all of us, and of course all of this is represented countless ways in the mythology, artwork, and music of every culture we can trace since the dawn of mankind! Thanks, Joseph Campbell, for tracing it and making sense of it all!!
So, in an effort to keep it simple, let’s just think about the seeds as they relate to self-acceptance and integrity, shall we?
In ALL of these models, we can’t get rid of the darkness, the shadow, the unconscious mind, or the seeds that cause suffering. But, we can and I’d argue we MUST keep those suckers dormant and strive proactively to feed the ones that help us stay tall and tight in the world.
- THE SKILLS-
- Develop a practice of self-reflection that works for you
Writing, walking, talking with trusted folks, etc. Anything that allows you to look deeply within yourself and learn to be with your inner experience instead of avoiding it/distracting yourself to death with the understanding that you cannot get rid of the ‘negative seeds.’
- People need to be seen, heard, and understood. You are a person!
Practice ‘Understanding’ why you do what you do and learning more about what you truly think is important (Values), your intuition (How do your instincts influence you?), and what it’s like to be you on a daily basis (What’s your self-talk like? What stresses you out? What helps you relax?).
- It’s the consequences, not the emotions.
You don’t have to judge and label all emotions as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Just know that positive and negative consequences arise from how we respond to our emotions.
- A) Observe how your emotions impact your behavior
- B) Observe how your behavior impacts others positively or negatively
III. THE ACTION STEPS- PUT IT ON TAPE!
- What positive seeds do you value the most?
Love, Belonging/Connection, Empathy/Compassion, Joy, etc.
- What are you doing to feed the positive seeds?
Daily, weekly, monthly.
- What negative seeds are you aware of in your life right now?
Anger, Violence, Discrimination, Hate, Jealousy, Fear, Despair, Negative Social Comparison, etc.
- HOW WILL YOU STOP FEEDING THEM?
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”