The Power of Radical Self-Acceptance

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I was out hiking with a friend who was going through a tough time, and as she was getting things off her chest I couldn’t help but notice how harsh she was being with herself. “If only I would do this, “If I could just do that,” “I don’t know why I can’t just do x, y and z already!”

As we talked about this self-judgement her fears surfaced, and they were fears that I could very much relate to: If I stop pushing myself, all of my vices will crawl out of the closets and overtake me. I have to be vigilant.

I had a strong sense that accepting those parts that she was most afraid was the key to my friend’s (and my own) healing, but I couldn’t fully articulate how that process might work. The fear that acceptance of our vices would lead to defeat by those vices was still too strong, so I decided to meditate and ask my Guides for clarity.

When in doubt, get the meditation cushion out! 😉

My Guides explained it like this. Imagine that you are a round dinner plate (stay with me; this will all make sense, I promise). By your very nature, you are already whole and complete; there’s nothing missing from you, there’s nothing broken.

Many of us, though, only accept a part of ourselves. So imagine, now, that there’s a sandwich sitting on part of the plate. The sandwich represents what you’re willing to accept about yourself: the “good” parts; the parts that ensure people keep liking you, that you keep liking you. The problem is that you now only see one part of yourself–the sandwich–and you forget that you’re the whole dinner plate.

Somewhere, deep down, you remember that feeling of wholeness, though, and you want to get it back. You sense that there’s something missing, so you go about getting fancier bread for your sandwich and better toppings, but you still can’t shake that sense that you’re not enough.

Where we get stuck is thinking that this sense that we’re not enough is an indication that we really aren’t enough, when it’s simply a sign that we’ve forgotten that we’re enough. The dinner plate’s still there; we’re just not seeing it because we’re busy trying to perfect our sandwich.

Imagine, now, that you are willing to accept those parts of yourself that aren’t so easy to be around: your judgement of self and others; those times when you’re not feeling compassionate and you’re feeling downright spiteful (we all have them); and any other part of you that you think might elicit shame, blame, or judgement.

With each of these qualities you see and accept, you are widening your vision of who you are. You’re no longer just the sandwich, you’re the sandwich and a little bit of the plate over here…and over here…and a little more over here. Before you know it, those shadow aspects you’ve been spending so much energy trying to disown are the very means through which you are able to see the whole dinner plate: your innate wholeness.

We have to trust that we won’t devolve into awful people when we start to accept ourselves.

We have to trust that, at our very core, we are acceptable. We are worthy.

We have to trust that the parts of ourselves we have rejected are integral to our return to wholeness; they’re not trash to be thrown away.

We have to trust ourselves.

And the paradox? Those things we have been trying for years to change, to get rid of, the moment we begin to accept them is the moment they begin to change of their own accord.

In our fear, we locked them up in cages and then wondered why they never got better. Would you flourish in a cage?

Let them out.

Welcome them home.

And come home to yourself.

Fear of Missing Out

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Every year on my birthday, I do an in-depth tarot reading to gain clarity on the most important lessons from the past year and guidance on the lessons that will be most prominent in the year ahead.

One of my major lessons came in the form of the Hermit, and in the deck I chose to use, The Wild Unknown Tarot, the Hermit is depicted as a turtle with a lantern on its shell:

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While this card carried many messages for me, the one I want to focus on here is the lesson of patience.

This tied into an experience I’d had in meditation earlier in the year when we were deciding whether or not to buy a particular house. I saw the turtle on the sidewalk in front of the house, slowly, slowly, slowly making its way up to the porch. When I tried to help it along by picking it up and carrying it, the lantern fell off and the scene went dark.

When I try to force solutions, I lose sight of my inner guiding light.

This led to more meditations, journaling and self-inquiry around my relationship to patience, and I began to see a number of threads emerging:

  • I recognized that I have considerable will to get shit done, and while this can be a wonderful asset, it can also accelerate me towards goals that, deep down, I don’t actually care about, and sometimes I disconnect from what I truly want when I’m more concerned with crossing things off my to-do list.
  • I began to see a pattern: When I felt impatient, I would whip out my will and move things along, and there was a predictable side effect. The outcome was either something I didn’t feel all that enthused about or fulfilled by, and often changing my mind at that stage took even more work and time than simply letting things move at a natural pace to begin with.
  • I also noticed how judgy I could get in that head space. If I perceived other people as preventing me from whipping along at an accelerated rate, my thoughts tended to be, er, less compassionate toward them.

And underneath all of this activity, I finally began to reach what was at the core: fear. Fear that, if I didn’t pounce on this opportunity, I’d blow it.

If we didn’t get this awesome house, there’d never be another house quite this awesome.

If I didn’t take this class, I’d have a critical, irreparable gap in my knowledge.

Dramatic much?

Well, that’s the voice of the ego. Every choice, no matter how small, is a matter of imminent life or death. [dum, dum, DUM!]

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It was time to tell my ego to chill the eff out.

As I sat with the fear, I also noticed something else: In that space when I was trying to force a solution, what I was really trying to do was to regain a sense of power. In those moments I was feeling disconnected from my inner power (my lantern), and in an attempt to get it back, I would exert power over external situations.

Contrast power over something versus empowerment: power within. When we’re not plugged into our inner power, we often try to replicate that feeling of power by being extra controlling with external circumstance, or even extra controlling with ourselves (think: addictive behavior). But control does not equal true power.

In meditation, one of my Guides helped me narrow in on one aspect of this control-patience-fear dynamic to work on right now: My perception of time. When I’m feeling like things are moving so damn slooooooooooow, she said, “Time is relative. You control how you experience time.”

With these words, I felt a deep peace wash over me, and I sat in silence for–well, I don’t know how long; I wasn’t keeping track of time. It became so clear that my perception of time was instrumental in my experience, something we have all intuitively felt. Contrast the experience of time when you’re with someone you love, engrossed in fascinating conversation, versus when you’re stuck in traffic.

My intuition is telling me that regaining the knowledge that I have a choice–I get to choose how I experience time–will help me reconnect with my inner power in those moments when I might otherwise be tempted to find that feeling through controlling behavior.

My new mantra: “Things are unfolding at just the right pace. What perfect timing!”

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