I will admit that in my role of a counsellor, the focus of my conversations with clients is to resolve problems. To find ways to minimize, heal, or otherwise “deal” with issues in order to improve one’s quality of life. I am however constantly surprised when I remember that self acceptance also means accepting that which is good about ourselves too. Its not just resolving or dealing with the bad.
Based on my experiences, it is easy to focus on the negative. Countless times I’ve talked with others about this concept and challenge them accordingly. Lets be honest…if we walk into a room with 10 people where 9 of them absolutely love us and 1 hates us for whatever reason. Who gets all of our attention? Lets be honest…it’s that one. despite all the positive around us, we focus on the negative.
I imagine this comes from an historical sense of shame. Afterall, shame has been an easy way to control a child’s behaviour throughout history. “You’re a bad boy…” “Only good girls do such and such.” Children quickly label themselves as “good” or “bad” depending on their behaviour. Our fear as children is that we will lose the affection of our caregivers if we are “bad.” It becomes a survival reaction in some ways. We are desperate to be good so we can survive.
So when we walk into a room and there is one person that doesn’t like us, it activates that childhood, survival instinct and we set out to resolve it so we can resolve our anxiety.
As we grow and mature however, ideally we become more comfortable with ourselves and shed the need to be liked or admired or validated by others.
Authentic belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance.Brene Brown
So, what is good about you? What are the qualities you possess that you appreciate and value?
It has taken me a long time to be comfortable with this question and even still at times I find myself feeling a bit awkward with it. I have positive qualities. I am compassionate, empathetic, generous with my time, energy and finances. I am loyal, assertive (this is still developing) and sensitive. I am ambitious, determined and resilient. I am a good father, counsellor and friend. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle at times but I have come to appreciate these qualities in me. They are the essence of who I am…and they are good.
I have spent over 40 years trying to make everyone else around me like me and validate me. Beginning with my mother, friends, the church, my ex wife and so many others. My opinion was their opinion and I tried with everything I had to be what they needed me to be. I’m sure you can see the challenge with this. The essence of who I am was no where to be found really. To be fair, there were aspects of my character in some of these endeavours but ultimately, I became what others needed. Provider, father, nurturer, congregant, straight. You name it.
It was only when I began to challenge and question this need for acceptance that I truly began to see and accept myself for who I am…not for what others wanted me to be. That was disruptive to be sure as it led to the ending of my marriage but it was the beginning of something beautiful. It is simply the greatest gift I have ever given myself.
Embracing the positive about oneself is essential in the pursuit of true authenticity. Accepting the beautiful parts of who we are gives us the freedom to express our true selves and to belong to others in a life-giving way that we have never experienced. In a way where we truly belong.