In Part one of this blog series - When Self-love feels hard, start with Self-knowledge, self acceptance & self compassion I covered how you can begin to use self-knowledge to help you move into positive self-regard. (If you’d like to read part one, you can do that here.)
Equipping yourself with more understanding about your preferences, strengths and tendencies is an incredible way to make shifts in your life.
But what happens when you learn something about yourself that you’re not thrilled to “claim” as a part of your patchwork quilt of character?
In this part of the series I’m going to explore cultivating an attitude of self-compassion. And the powerful stance of self-acceptance as essential parts of moving towards self-like and self-love.
A way to do this is by considering the people we let into our lives.
Because invariably there are some things we love about them and maybe other things we find annoying (yes even in our best friends!).
Think about someone you care very deeply for.
When you think about this person’s qualities, what do you love about them, what do you like about them?
What isn’t great about them but you can tolerate?
And what actually annoys you about this person - because I’m willing to bet that no matter HOW much you love them, there’s a quirk or two which bugs you.
Yet, you value this person as a whole, because they have so many qualities you appreciate about them which means you can accept the things you don’t, even if you don’t like them.
We’re able to accept these things because we give compassion, understanding and leeway to those we love. We focus on the BEST parts of them, and let the niggles take a side part, rather than being how we perceive them.
And this is something which can be incredibly powerful to keep in mind when we are speaking to, and about ourselves.
It takes practice, but you CAN approach your self-regard in the same way you do when considering other people in your life.
There are so many aspects of ourselves which are ingrained, either through our DNA or through repeated behaviours and preferences we have had all our lives (which may as well be part of our genetic makeup!)
And there are inevitably parts of our entire makeup which we find frustrating, or even dislike.
This is where it can feel hard to match those thoughts and feeling up with a stance of self love.
When we’re deep in resenting, hating or wishing we could get rid of parts of ourselves that we think are less-than, not good enough, rubbish or bad, it can be REALLY challenging to even get on board with an attitude of self-like.
So this is where using a viewpoint of self-acceptance is KEY.
As you start to build more awareness into your life of the things you do and feel (see part 1 of this series if you missed it), it can be really helpful to try and take a “reporter’s view” of what’s going on. By this I mean focusing on the facts, rather than the feelings about these facts
So what will you do with this self-knowledge you have started to gather?
Consider what things you love about yourself, like about yourself and are going to ACCEPT about yourself.
Just as you accept parts of those who are important to you, you can begin to see that there simply isn’t ANYONE who is great at everything in life.
A select number of people are highly specialist, take a professional sports player for example.
But the vast majority of human beings are generalists, with a wide range of experience and strengths.
Thinking about this, are you putting pressure on yourself to be a specialist in too many areas, and holding yourself to a higher standard than you’re holding anyone else to?
If you’re nodding along as you read this, consider asking yourself “how is it helping me?”
And how would it feel to be able to accept that you CANNOT be a general specialist at everything in life?
What could be possible if you choose to accept the things you’re disappointed by?
I’m not saying that you have to LIKE these things, but would accepting them as part of your current human makeup enhance your life as it is right now?
These are thoughts I would encourage you to explore further, because they can lead to incredible shifts, for example when you start to remember to treat yourself with the same care as you treat others.
Or when you begin to accept that there are things which you like less about yourself.
And by acknowledging these things as part of who you are, you begin to empower yourself to get curious about what could be different, instead of constantly telling yourself you’re not good enough.
This is where deep rooted self-compassion comes into play
I’d love to invite you to do a little exercise:
Take a moment to write down 3 things which you’re happy to claim about yourself for example, “I’m kind”, “I’m generous”, “I’m patient”
Got some of your own?
OK, now write down the OPPOSITE of these things.
And consider for a moment, if it’s possible that you’re ALSO sometimes the opposite of the positive thing you’re happy to claim -
For example, you might be highly adaptable and flexible, but occasionally HATE things changing and feel obstinate
Or you might consider yourself generous, but when the 12th request for sponsorship you’ve had this year comes through, feel you don’t want to contribute, and label yourself stingy…
The point of this is, that if you can see that you’re BOTH sides of the thing you’re happy to be, can you also consider that you’re BOTH sides of something negative you’re telling yourself you are?
For example, you may consider yourself disorganised or flakey.
But is this true? Are there times when you’re actually incredibly organised and reliable?
How would it feel if you decided that instead of saying “I am so… slow, disorganised, flakey” etc. you replaced this with
“I am an imperfect human, who sometimes feels as though I’m disorganised”
This statement is deeply rooted in self-compassion and can be a brilliant interrupter in the moments when you find yourself straying far away from a place of self-appreciation and self love
The reason this works is because the stories we tell ourselves are rarely the whole truth, as I hope this exercise has just shown. There is always another side to the story, and by pausing to consider and question the truth, we open ourselves up to a much more rounded, compassionate viewpoint rather than the negative label we can be so quick to jump to use.
We see these labels everywhere, and it is really important to remember that you are not just your job role, a parent, a partner, friend, child either
You are an imperfect human, with a job and who has relationships.
You likely also have challenges in these areas of your life.
But guess what, you also have SKILLS in all of these!
You are an imperfect human who has GREAT people skills, maybe even excellent leadership skills at work, or amazingly thoughtful traits when it comes to caring for those you love.
When we start to build this picture of simply being a human, with all the varied experiences and attributes which build us up, we can start to create a much more 3D persona, rather than labelling ourselves as being one thing or another.
Because our thoughts, actions, strengths and weaknesses are not WHO we are.
They are attributes that we HAVE, and sometimes don’t HAVE.
They are part of the jigsaw which makes us the complicated, deep, ever changing WHO of ourselves. A person who we can understand, accept, and love if we choose to take the steps towards this.
To find out more about cultivating a more positive relationship with yourself, click on the link below for free resources, support and information about upcoming events and workshops.
To read part 1 of this blog series, click here.