BY: T. Franklin Murphy | June 2018 (eduted December 31, 2021)
The harsh world constantly sends the message that "we are not good enough." Resist this message. Give yourself the gift of personal acceptance.
At every stage, we need loving people who attune to our feelings and respond to our needs. Loving people provide the security necessary to venture outside our cozy comfort zones. They foster the courage to explore. Those who love us provide the “attention, appreciation, acceptance, and affection” we need. Without a support system, we struggle. The absence of supportive others elevates anxiety. Without external resources, the spooky hollow of change thrusts us back into the confining boundaries of the past.
When environments lack support, the impoverished surrounding intensifies our drive for security. We seek safety through uncompromised structure, eliminating unpredictability. Safety is achieved through the inflexible rules we establish. When confronted by normal variations, we crumble, violently shaking our fist and cry out, "WHY ME?" But screaming in desperation doesn’t succor the ache of loneliness. It’s absolutely not fair that some lack loving support; but the universe rarely concerns itself with fairness. We must adapt.
Seeking Accepance Externally
A young man, lacking relationship skills, violently grabbed my daughter’s arms. Half screaming, half begging, “I don’t want no bull-Sh**!” My daughter—thoroughly coached on dangerous dating behaviors—quickly excused herself. This boy never got a second date.
Kindness doesn’t require we save others by becoming their victim, making an escape early is often wise. When childhoods failed to instill proper relationship etiquette, the lost soul grapples with the complexities of bonding.
The confusion of connection leaves those without living examples dumbfounded with the intricate details of connection and social feeling. They act limited by self-directed consciousness, destroying any hopes of love. After failed attempts of connecting, we may—like this young man—try to find love by using guilt, shame or even physical force. Fear doesn’t create the bonds we seek. The attention and affection we desire will be withheld and only our emptiness remains.
For more on this topic see Love and Fear
Self Acceptance After Trauma
Healing is possible. We aren’t condemned to a life of frustrations. We can escape this terrible trajectory. Intimacy, although not fully understood, can be savored. For healing to begin, we must stop the bleeding. The emotional hurts are etched into the psyche, not easily released or forgotten. Unattended and left to fulfill the trajectories, the impulses to act intrude on relationships, spurring great emotion.
Outside criticism from childhood eventually evolves into self-criticism. The chaotic and strict standards of our parents become internalized. Halting this cycle of psychological warfare against our tender minds requires enough vigilance to forcefully interrupt the unhealthy thoughts that destroy peace and disrupt relationships. Perhaps, we need a more compassionate approach, wrapping our own loving arms around that aching inner-child, giving ourself the attention, appreciation, and acceptance we crave.
"For healing to begin, we must stop the bleeding."
We need more than the Stuart Smiley approach, “You are wonderful. People like you.” We need consistent and gentle self-directed thoughts. By accepting our self—as we are, the ego defenses soften. The attention, appreciation, and acceptance come from within. The self-compassion forges the beginning of security. As security takes hold, and self-confidence solidifies, we can quell the shards of emotions piercing early moments of a new relationship.
Christopher K. Germer Ph.D., lecturer on psychiatry at Harvard Medical School wrote that "change comes naturally when we open ourselves to emotional pain with uncommon kindness. Instead of blaming, criticizing, and trying to fix ourselves (or someone else, or the whole world) when things go wrong and we feel bad, we can start with self-acceptance. Compassion first! This simple shift can make a tremendous difference in your life" (2009, location 169).
Opening to emotions is scary, requiring courage to face avoided vulnerabilities—the possibility of rejection. Trust and self-confidence allow others to accept or reject us. It’s there right as a person. We must calmly allow perspective dates, romantic partners and even spouses a right to leave. By doing so we offer them the gift of acceptance—allowing for their autonomy. Without this gift, intimacy flounders.
Books on Self Acceptance
By allowing partners freedom without nasty manipulations, the relationship naturally evolves or destructs. Without our unhealthy intrusions, partners freely respond to our needs, as we attune and respond to their needs. This process of allowing, giving and receiving creates the bond of trust.
By fostering self-acceptance, we open the opportunity for the power to love—the love of self and love of others. Making small gestures of appreciation, giving valuable moments of attention are the small steps that begins the magical transformation of the soul, creating patterns necessary to receive and give love.
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Christopher K. Germer (2009). The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. The Guilford Press; 1st edition