When people struggle with a lack of self-confidence, self-esteem, or self-worth it makes just about everything they undertake in life so much harder.
These feelings are common to most people at some points in their lives. This information sheet has been put together by the Health and Wellbeing Advisor, drawn from an article published in a health magazine by a man who simply wanted to be known as ‘Gareth’. The use of Gareth’s succinct and personal article may be helpful to others who experience these difficult feelings.
Gareth’s article is very much appreciated…..thank you Gareth whoever and wherever you are!
Are you, or someone you know, consumed with negative thoughts or feelings towards yourself? So much so that there is little space or time in your life to develop more positive statements of self-love and compassion?
Have you forgotten what it is like to ‘give yourself a break’?
Can you say that you have never torn a strip off yourself or fallen into a state of negative thinking?
How disproportionate was the negativity or negative opinion of yourself in comparison to reality?
Has negativity had any long-term effects upon you, and can you say honestly you have let go of it 100%?
For some people, right from an early age, they have dealt with the baying wolves of negativity and self-loathing, leaving them with a disproportionate and unrealistic view of themselves; their bodies, their abilities, their relationships with themselves or others.
Some people feel an absolute disappointment in themselves. Perhaps feeling disgust, feeling disgusting, dirty, feeling worthless, ugly, incomplete, faulty or bad. Traumatic life experiences can leave people feeling and thinking negative things.
Some people go on from these thoughts and feelings to treat themselves badly, including things like engaging in risky behaviours, e.g. unsafe sex, drug and alcohol abuse.
Other people’s lack of self-belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy by endless procrastination over tasks, intentions and resolutions.
For some, unhealthy and unbalanced relationships become a pattern. This affects their ability to engage intimately and lovingly in love, sex and relationships. Some avoid relationships all together because they fear sabotaging them. Pushing partners, friends and family members away. This inevitably leads to hurting everyone including themselves.
In his article, Gareth referred to a book called, learning to Love Yourself, by Dr Gay Hendricks, a psychotherapist and counsellor. Some elements of this book are summarized and presented as 5 steps towards Self-Acceptance.
Five Steps Towards Self-Acceptance
Step One – Take a ‘step back’.
Be objective – ‘look’ at yourself as you would your best friend.
If you are capable of such emotions as empathy, care, compassion, love even, towards a friend, why, then leave yourself out of such emotions? After all, the value of true friendship is immeasurable, why would we forget to be a true friend to ourselves?
Be honest – being honest about your true feelings and thoughts, even if only to yourself, is to treat them, and your life, with absolute respect.
Extend yourself love and compassion – know or tell yourself if you must, that whatever comes up for you through the process is OK, it isn’t ‘wrong’, it is just a part of the sum that makes your human, that makes you, well, you.
Tell yourself that “Today (and every day) provides a chance to develop loving behaviour to myself…” (P.K. Geddis).
Step Two – Let go of the inner fight.
It is your inner fight and struggle that has held you within your trap.
If life has already thrown a negative ‘dart’ at you, why throw yourself another one?
Does beating yourself up, or tearing strips off yourself make you feel any better? Even if in some way it does, does it do anything, whatsoever, to resolve your situation?
Consider this: “When we cling to pain, we end up punishing ourselves” (Leo F. Buscaglia).
Easier-said-than-done, especially if it has become a built-in reaction or coping mechanism, but stop it! Stop fighting with yourself.
By fighting against one’s negative thoughts and feelings, rather than reducing them, we are in fact giving them greater strength and control over us. If we allowed the thought or emotion to just ‘be’, if we experienced it in whatever ‘shape’ or ‘form’ it came in, Dr Hendricks tells us we would then become ‘free’ of it. We would retain control over thoughts, our feelings, ourselves.
Step Three – Acknowledge
Take a look at however you’re thinking or feeling, and acknowledge it. For example, “I feel bitter, angry, sad, confused, screwed up”, “I don’t know how I feel”, or even, “I’m worthless, ugly, useless, I’m a mess”.
Dr Hendricks tells us that, whatever is going on for you, whatever it is that you are experiencing, acknowledge it exactly as it is, regardless of whether it is positive or negative.
This may take a little getting used to, because:
(a) You might be experiencing a jumble of things at once – that’s OK, acknowledge that.
(b) You may not know exactly how you are thinking or feeling – that’s OK, acknowledge that.
(c) You may still have your ‘censorship’ head on, that is, your in-built belief that certain things ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be said, thought or felt, much less admitted to or acknowledged – that’s OK, acknowledge that too.
The act of acknowledging how we are truly thinking or feeling is, not only to relinquish in inner fight/struggle with ourselves, but to be pure and honest too. This takes courage, of course, and it is this courage that will carry you through to the next stage.
Step Four – Accept
Whatever it is that you have acknowledged, whether it be positive or negative, accept it.
This may be the stage you struggle with most, because:
(a) You may resist acceptance – it’s not easy to accept that you are capable of say, bitterness, resentment, or even loathing for someone so, go back a step, acknowledge, then accept it.
(b) You have learnt the behaviour of pushing the elements of you which you have been unwilling, or unable to accept, to the ‘back of your head’. Again, go back to stage three and acknowledge, then accept that too.
(c) It seems too easy doesn’t it?
We seem to think as humans, that everything in life must be fought for, or struggled with. Striving towards, say, a personal achievement, to raise awareness of something you believe in, or to do something good for something or someone else, or fighting for the rights of yourself and others, are very positive ‘struggles’ or goals worth ‘fighting’ or aiming for.
To accept yourself is not to give up: one can accept one’s negative thoughts, feelings, short-comings, flaws etc. from a place of power. To look at each element of yourself, accept it, and extend it love and compassion; what could be more powerful than that?
Consider this: “When we change our fundamental attitude or mind-set, we can instantly transform… our lives” (P.K. Geddis).
It is an act of acceptance that will allow you to experience the sense of ‘space’ and freedom within which you will have undoubtedly sought. The clarity that you will gain by doing so will allow you to move to the next step.
Step Five – Accept that ‘perfection’ is impossible.
Isn’t it our flaws, our mistakes, after all, that make us all the more ‘real’, more genuine, and more ‘human’?
Know that “a step towards wholeness is to admit we’re human, not perfect, as flawed as others, and wonderfully full of potential.” (P.K Geddis)
Even diamonds begin life requiring a great deal of buffing and polishing to become brilliant and beautiful – why should our lives not be the same?
Our flaws are what make us individual so, to ‘buff’ our lives through the acts of acknowledgment, self-acceptance and, thus, personal growth, and ‘polish’ it with self-love and compassion, why shouldn’t we, then, ‘shine’ in our own individual and perfect way?
A quick summary
(1) Take a step back – be your own best friend.
(2) Give up your inner fight.
(3) Acknowledge your inner thoughts and feelings – THEY’RE OK.
(4) Accept yourself fully – YOU’RE OK, and,
(5) Quit aiming for ‘perfection’.
Ultimately, it is the act of self-acceptance, followed by the full extension of love and compassion for yourself that will bring you the inner peace and freedom you desire, and deserve. Quite simply, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line…”