“You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
I am in the process of writing a book that will be available later this year and one of the themes that came up whilst writing is that of self acceptance. Well this is the big one for many of us isn’t it so I thought I would share a bit of what came to me. I know everything that I write, including these blogs, is really something that I am at a deeper level telling myself. It is stuff that I myself am seeking to hear and it comes to me via writing. When I share it with others I do so in that I hope that it triggers their own aha moments as much as it does for me when I write. It is of course always down to you as to what is relevant and what isn’t because everything that I share can only come through the lens of my own perception. You may well have a completely different one.
On the subject of self acceptance….
I know that unless we find self acceptance life will always feel incomplete. Few people really accept themselves which is why few people feel completely at peace. Most people don’t notice the many unloving thoughts they have about themselves in a day. The signs that those thoughts are there though are in the feelings and moods we experience on a daily basis and in what we project out onto others.
Self acceptance, or lack of, is both complicated and simple. It is complicated in that it hides in many guises – criticising and judging others, feeling better or worse than someone else, low confidence, low self esteem, depression, arrogance, anxiety, resentment, loneliness, impatience, a need for attention, not feeling good enough, pushing others away. These are all some of the signs of a lack of self acceptance. The simple root cause behind a lack of self acceptance, is a lack of self love.
Through all of it’s many guises, the way to true self acceptance is self love. If there is self love then the relationship we have with ourself is an encouraging and kind one, but it is also an honest one. We can only be honest with ourself when we are not judging ourself. The moment we go into judgement we become defensive and the moment we become defensive we tend to go into denial. Once we are in denial of something within ourself we will start to project that onto others, we just don’t realise we are doing it.
The world is your mirror
Much of what we notice in the world is a reflection of our inner world. All that we get angry about in the outer world is pointing us to look inwards and to see what we are angry about in ourself. That person that you can’t stand for being rude and ignorant – yep, that is a reflection of an aspect of you that you are in denial about. That person that you admire for being so amazing – yep, that too is an aspect of you that you won’t see. All of these outer projections are an opportunity to look at the parts of us we reject and to bring them into wholeness. To look at what thoughts, feelings and emotions we have suppressed and denied in ourself, to look at them lovingly. Somewhere along the way all of these suppressed thoughts, feelings, and emotions we misinterpreted as being who we are and as we know deep down that isn’t true we reject them, and in doing so we reject ourself. We are then living in a state of a lack of self acceptance and if we are living in lack within ourself we are living in lack everywhere.
Our outer world will never feel enough for us because inwardly we don’t feel enough. Inwardly we have stopped being the love that we are and we have stopped loving ourself as we are. We will seek that love in the outer world and we won’t find it, we will only find people and situations that point our focus back inwards until we find the real source of love that we seek. Now that isn’t to say that in accepting and loving ourself as we are that there aren’t aspects of our behaviour and thoughts that we won’t want to change along the way. We will change as we go along because the more we become the love that we are the more all acts, thoughts and feelings not coming from love will fall away, changing our behaviour as they do. So much of our time and effort is wasted though because we go about this in the wrong way. We try to change the actions rather than the driver behind the actions and because of this the changes can never last. The way that all those unwanted aspects will come into alignment is by first loving them and accepting them as they are, for they are a part of you playing out your inner wounds and if you do not love them then you do not love yourself.
How do we begin this process?
The journey into self acceptance is an inner one. We need to allow the space to sit with the inner wounds and all the suppressed emotions that came as a result of ignoring them in the first place. I should add at this point that we need to apply this to all ongoing life experiences. One of the reasons there is a rise in mental health issues is because we do not allow ourselves the time or space to honour and nurture what arises in our life experiences. So many thoughts, feelings and emotions get stuffed down and suppressed that eventually they have no choice but to burst into our awareness because they will continue to create more and more situations and experiences to get our attention until we eventually listen to them.
If we are brave enough to sit with them and allow them all to come up they will offer us much understanding and insight before eventually dissolving back into love. We will start to feel a deep sense of self love and self acceptance, and a deep feeling of inner peace.
I should also say at this point that in loving and accepting our inner world, and therefore removing the need to project our lack of self love into the outer world, that there will of course still be things in the outer world that we want to change. If we see suffering we will still wish that suffering to be removed. The difference is that we will look at it through the eyes of compassion and know that all that causes suffering comes from pain and a lack of love. Rather than there being a victim and a villain we will know that ultimately the villain is also the victim, if there are ever either of these in truth. This is very difficult for many people to accept and it is much easier to leave the villain in the bad camp. Unfortunately when we do this it is still because we are on some level denying that an aspect of us too has done something that has caused another harm or pain, and we would rather not look at that because it hurts us to think we could have done it. Until we do though we will live in a state of self judgement and until we can come to a place of forgiveness within ourself we will keep judging others as villains, because in reality we are still judging ourself as a villain. We will continue to recreate similar events, situations, and people in our outer world, all trying to guide us inwards to that which holds us from freedom.
Next week’s blog – part 2: Seeking approval from others.