In his book, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden outlines the practices that are necessary to truly feel good about yourself. The one that stands out for me is Pillar #2: The Practice of Self Acceptance. Branden beautifully articulates, ” We can run not only from our dark side but also from our bright side – from anything that threatens to make us stand out or stand alone or calls for the awakening of the hero within us…”
“The greatest crime we commit against ourselves is not that we deny or disown our shortcomings, but that we deny and disown our greatness – because it frightens us.”
Are you guilty of this crime? I know I am. I have spent the majority of my life denying who I know myself to be – my true self. It’s easy to do that when you have spent your life justifying who you are and yearning for approval from everyone. We grow up believing that we cannot trust ourselves, that putting our needs first is selfish, and that it is our responsibility to take care of others before us. And, that we have to trust other people, especially authority figures. We forget ourselves and we spend most of our life with an “others oriented attitude”. Having this attitude typically leads to suffering and resentment.
I know many of you are reading this and thinking, “But how do I accept myself? I’m flawed!” For a moment, consider that there is NOTHING wrong with you. That you are perfect, whole, and complete as you are right NOW. That the only thing getting in the way of you falling in love with yourself – ALL of yourself – is your past waiting on the sidelines to remind you that you are less than perfect.
Your relationship with yourself is where you start. To have a relationship with yourself is to know yourself well. What has worked with me as early as the age of 12 is to engage in a process of self-observation. WARNING: This does not mean getting caught up n “analysis paralysis.” Instead of trying to avoid your feelings, get curious about them. If you are feeling sad, don’t run to the fridge and get something to eat. Sit quietly and observe what is taking place inside of you.
Listen, a lot of stuff is going to come up for you. It’s going to be painful. I would be lying if I said it would be as easy as heating up a microwave dinner (Thanks Tara, for that amazing insight).
What would it look like for you if you unconditionally accepted yourself? What would there be more of? Less of? What would you be able to create in your life? With others? In your career?
This week, practice noticing every time you rate yourself as either “good” or “bad, “right” or “wrong.” AND, consider that each time you rate yourself – you are denying your greatness.