Making the Shift From Resistance to Acceptance

Young female secretary makes notes on a laptop while other business people are shaking hands in the background. Daylight, indoor, office.

Dr. Purushothaman
August 22, 2013

The keystone of many challenging emotional and behavioral difficulties is the very human habit of rating ourselves up and down by our behaviors and traits. Often folks label themselves as failures or rejects because they didn't perform so well on some task or got rejected.

In inferiority and self-downing we encounter the problem of equating ourselves with our actions and traits. Our actions and traits are important, yet if we own poor behaviors or traits such as smoking or being unemployed these describe only two of our behaviors and traits. Anytime we choose to rate our "self" by a single or even a few traits or behaviors, we will be grossly overgeneralizing about our "self". To rate ourselves by our actions and traits is both arbitrary and self-defeating. You may behave foolishly in some area of your life, but that will not make you a "fool".

We are multifaceted persons with many, many positive, neutral, and some negative qualities. As multifaceted persons we are so complicated that any form of self-rating is nonsense. Each of us possesses millions of traits and behaviors (some ongoing and some in the past). How many points do we get for each trait and behavior? How many points for eye color? Big ears? Fallen arches? A good memory? Is this point process arbitrary?

Self-rating doesn't appear objective. We could hardly view ourselves objectively if we describe ourselves with a one-dimensional label. Example: "I'm an idiot." Further self-rating appears to lead to intense and enduring emotions. Self-rating can be found in anxiety, depression, guilt, and shame. In anger we find self-rating in the form of other-rating. Example: "That goof!"

A negative self-label can be very unmotivating. Generally we act in accordance with how we perceive ourselves. If we see ourselves as failures, no good, or fools we will tend to act that way. Better we view ourselves as multifaceted persons for that's who we appear to be.

Self-rating and self-labeling can hinder our goals. If we believe we could become losers, failures, or some other negative label as the result of losing or failing, we can become anxious about doing the task. This can defocus us from our activity. And if we fail at a task, we will face the feelings we create when we negatively label ourselves "failures".

Self-rating creates problems when we predict the future. If we negatively rate ourselves "I'm inadequate", we'll tend to envision a negative future. Seeing this negative outcome is highly unmotivating.

Self-rating sets up magical goals. We may attempt to be "superior" to others. We are not super-human or subhuman, yet a strong case can be presented for us being fallible humans who make errors from time to time. Truly we are multifaceted persons with many positive, neutral, and negative qualities.

We can rate our behaviors and traits, yet problems arrive when we started rating ourselves up and down by our not so hot behaviors and traits. Better to note that we sometimes act foolishly, than to say we're fools.

We can accept ourselves by refusing to rate and label ourselves or by viewing ourselves as multifaceted persons. We can find instant grace by simply choosing to drop self-labeling and self-downing or by recognizing our multifaceted self. Self-acceptance is unconditionally accepting the self. You refuse to be critical of the self or negatively label it. You criticize behavior and traits, but you stay away from knocking the self because of your behavior.

Self-esteem is built upon rating yourself up or down by what you do, are, or have. Self-esteem can be painful and unmotivating if you don’t achieve your standards for doing, being, or having. You are then under the whip of standards, and if your standards are perfectionistic it can be even more painful.

Negative self-labels offer us excuses not to change behaviors and traits. We act in harmony with our label. If we believe we are "no good", we might be more tempted to not change our behavior.

By refusing to label ourselves and rate ourselves or by accepting ourselves as fallible, yet multifaceted persons, we will be less subject to intense and enduring emotions and will be more willing to take risks

"What are some strategies for overcoming bad self-images? Do you experience that a bad self-image can be overcome?"

Yes a poor self-image can be overcome. I've seen that happen many, many times. It can be brought about in a number of ways:

(1) Process those Personality Clusters. (2) Accept ourselves or love ourselves regardless of whether we do positive or negative things. We always have that choice not to knock ourselves when we invariably make errors. (3) Take actions in our lives that create positive experiences of success, yet don’t rate our selves by them. Focus on the vital and absorbing activity of doing. Soak up enjoyment.

Self-images are entrancing beliefs. Bad self-images fall into this category because they twist our perceptions in a way that distort how we see ourselves. They show us only a negative picture and engender negative feelings and pictures of negative possibilities. Bad self-images are grist for the processing mill. They are illusions like even positive self-images, but the negative self-images make life feel lousy and our possibilities appear poor. Bad self-images run anxiety, depression, guilt, and shame. These are those distorted images that make us appear bad, worthless, foolish, dumb etc. They predict and help create poor outcomes and block motivation.

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