Welcoming Life Just the Way It Is.
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | September 2015 (edited February 10, 2022)
Accepting life on life's own terms allows us to make the most of reality.
Quit being a hater. We can dislike an action without disliking the actor. This is especially true when dissatisfied with a personal behavior. Quit being a self-hater. When we slip, fail, or act contrary to a desired character trait, we aren’t stupid or bad; we are human. Personal condemnation doesn’t promote growth. Deploring the self doesn’t motivate change. This just isn’t the case.
The healthy development of a child depends on a loving, caring environment. A child constantly berated and peppered with insults becomes protective and defensive. The chaotic and dangerous world of these children is unpredictable, the message taught is stay safe, avoid the unknown. Security, on the other hand, encourages curiosity. The curious child’s explorations build a strong foundation for continued growth.
"Part of the real beauty of life is that it’s unpredictable. Nothing is permanent, everything changes, and of course, a lot of things can happen that will transform who you are and have an impact on your life. The problem is that we need to cultivate the ability to truly accept whatever comes and embrace it."
Fear of the Present Realities
Each day delivers new information. The child's curiosity motivates discovery. Fear thwarts natural curiosity. Fear warns of potential threats, like a turtle retract, pulling vulnerabilities inside the protective shell. When small events during development are chaotic and unpredictable—such as common with poor parenting—the world becomes dark and scary. Instead of expanding, the child retracts.
Adults grow in a similar way; we also react to security and threats. A healthy safe environment nurtures growth; a harsh and critical environment demands self-protection. The people surrounding us are a significant part of our environment.
"Radical Acceptance is the practice of saying, 'Okay. This is unpleasant, but it is what it is and it will pass.'"
Fort Behavioral Health
Critical Self-Judgment and Fear of Present Realities
We should be selective. But safe environments aren’t entirely external. Internal thoughts also contribute. Critical thoughts destroy security. Harsh personal judgments—often a nasty remnant of the past—continue patterns of the past, making the world unsafe, unpredictable and approached with caution. Inner-criticism doesn’t make the world safe naturally encouraging positive change; we must challenge these harmful judgmental thoughts.
Accepting reality is an action mindset, taking what is as a given and then deciding what to do about it, rather than complaining and do nothing.
Harsh Self Criticism
Self-criticism, expressions of personal disgust and self-directed contempt discourages growth. This harsh environment—even though it is self created—is unpleasant. Instead of curiously exploring, we pullback, we hide from experiences that may initiate an onslaught of self-directed criticism. Self-contempt is not only painful but destructive. Self-hatred leaves a destructive mark. Harsh self-criticism taints choices and sours relationships.
Like the timid child afraid to engage, the self-berated self loses curiosity for exploration of the unknown. To escape pain, the wounded soul responds defensively to new experiences, afraid of failure, damaging self-value, and the shame of losing, again.
"When you refuse to accept reality, you get stuck in negative emotions such as sadness, anger, shame, or bitterness. You will also cause yourself more suffering if you try to change things that you don’t have any control over."
Emily Zeman | Mindsoother
Self-Compassion Softens Fears of Present Reality
Personal compassion shouldn’t mollify us into complacency. Acceptance of personal worth shouldn’t impede growth. A two-year old child praised for exhibiting self-restraint, isn’t being told he has reached a pinnacle and no longer needs to try. We still should engage in personal reflection, identifying weaknesses, poor choices and paths where we stumbled; but the manner of identification allows for personal dignity.
We treat ourselves with care and concern. We start by challenging harsh and self-degrading thoughts, replacing them with gentleness, and a constructive plan for change.
"Acceptance does not mean suspending efforts to change what is. It does not imply that we’re giving up on reality becoming different."
Nancy Colier LCSW, Rev.
We long for love and acceptance. Part of the longing is satisfied through small internal shifts. Personal acceptance inspires joy. Nurturing a compassionate inner-environment opens the soul to experience emotions. With Inner safety, we experience curious fascination with the human experience; rather than fear.
We expand our borders; rather than barricade ourselves from the unpredictable outside world. We won’t blindly ignore faults. Imperfection and acceptance peacefully coexist. These inner-shifts are difficult. We don’t simply change childhood programming; but we can recognize the faulty programming and the stifling feelings generated from the past, and courageously challenge and refute these damaging thoughts.
Our inner compassion creates a healthier environment. The fear of punishment subsides and we willingly explore beyond comfort zones. Personal compassion allows for the emotions—even the uncomfortable ones—not to carelessly direct our lives through powerful impulses but to be a part of our self-actualizing and fascinating world.
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