Radical Self-Acceptance

Our challenge is to be on our own side. It’s easy to disparage ourselves. We can recount the disappointments without thinking. But saying, “Yes, whatever I do and however it turns out, I believe in myself” . . . well, now, that’s another matter.

The truth is we can’t afford any more self-hate. We can’t criticize ourselves, we can’t be any less than our best friend and supporter. In the second half of life, that’s our responsibility. It’s not easy and it’s not self-indulgent. It’s reflective and considered and sustaining. And it’s our primary job. We may have unconsciously chosen the script we have enacted this lifetime, but, no matter what it has been, we are tasked with the job of loving ourselves regardless of the details of our lives.

If you’ve had any experience at all, you’ve made mistakes (some huge) and you’ve embarrassed yourself publicly and you’ve felt humiliated. And now it’s time to grow past all that and assume your powerful stance as Adult, responsible in inner terms. We’ve earned that place. Whatever the first half of life looked like, now we commit to ourselves. It’s deeper than a marriage commitment and longer lasting. Saying Yes to ourselves means “I will never berate myself and I will never allow abuse from my inner Critic to damage my inner Child.” 

Are there some things you don’t want to experience? Most of us would say homelessness, extreme poverty, and physical unease. But there are feeling places inside we don’t want to go, either. Some of us don’t want to feel anything extreme — anger, hurt, frustration, sadness. We like our comfort. And we want to think of ourselves as respectable. We’re not the kind of person who would cause another to suffer. We want to contribute to peace in the world, not diminish it.

But the truth is we’re everything. We’re kind and we’re cruel. We’re mean and we’re loving. We’re the sadist and we’re the saint. We’d all like to identify with the socially acceptable parts and be known only that way. We even convince ourselves that, truly, we’re essentially nice people. We are, but we’re much more.

I find it interesting when one person condemns another, implicitly saying, “I would never do what he did. I’m better than that.” Such arrogance!

I have not been in a position when I had to steal to stay alive. I’m grateful for that. Can I judge another who needs food? Fortunately, I have not had to defend my own life but I would. My addictions have been limited to the legal kind — work, exercise, eating. But what if I were addicted to street drugs or alcohol? Then I would have another experience of being human. Frankly, that one scares me and I don’t want to go through that hell. But it’s not because I am better than those who experience addiction. This lifetime I picked up a middle class professional script when I incarnated. They picked up the addiction script. So what? I have my experiences; they have theirs. Mine aren’t better but, I dare say, in many ways they are easier.

What if I had chosen the addiction script, gotten to middle age with no degrees or status, and faced looking into myself every day of my life, remembering what I had done to support my drug habit? Or what if I had committed a heinous crime while loaded? That’s another experience available to humans. I’ve passed on that one, but can I disparage those who accepted that script? Really, they deserve my respect for choosing a lifetime with harder lessons than mine.  

We’re in this lifetime to learn and by mid-life we see that our primary lesson is self-acceptance. Many of us say, “I’m proud of what I’ve done. I loved being a parent. My grandchildren are great. Of course, I accept myself.” But that’s not self-acceptance at all. That’s assuaging a demanding Controller who expects appropriate behavior.

Self-acceptance is about moving into those shadowy places in our hearts which no one else sees and saying “Yes.” “Yes” to the scared Child who still lives there. “Yes, I will be on your side and stay with you no matter how you feel. Yes, I will protect you in the world; in my Adult I will face other adults so you don’t have to. Yes, I will always love you when others ridicule and criticize you. I am all you need. I am always here.”

An alliance between our Adult with its good thinking and out Child with its hurt feeling heals us. And healing is why we’re here. It’s OK to develop a good façade but in our depths we move into our fear and self- hate and say, “I am always here and I will always love you.” We don’t criticize ourselves. We love every part of ourselves, especially those parts that need help. Our façade is for everyone else. We acknowledge without flinching the truth about our inner worlds. We don’t turn away, we practice presence and self-acceptance, and always we say, “Yes.”

We say Yes to who we are this lifetime because that’s our job. We play the hand we’re dealt.  By mid-life we can’t be proprietary about our lives. We suspect that Life is much larger than we had ever dreamed and that we are much larger. We can’t be contained by our first half of life definitions — mother, homemaker, CPA, attorney, nurse, criminal, drug addict. In fact, we don’t know how to describe ourselves. Labels prove insufficient.

We see power and movement and coincidence every day so we say, “Yes.” We are adventurers and we don’t want to miss this adventure by over-thinking or trying to control or judging ourselves or anyone else. We’re being carried, so we surrender and we trust.

And through opening to Life, we see that we are not better than the criminal. In fact, his soul chose an intense lifetime for him filled with suffering and self- hate. How can we judge him? His job is also to learn self-acceptance but his challenge may be greater than mine. Shouldn’t I respect another who has accepted huge challenges and works every day to meet them?

Next lifetime that may be me.


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