It is people's natural tendency to be emotionally connected to others, to the surrounding world and to themselves. Within psychology, there are long-standing views of "psychological ailments" as a sign of mental dysfunction, a sign that something in people is inadequate and needs fixing. These views transpired into society and impact how we understand and accept our own emotional struggles. In reality, some emotional struggles are a symbol of disconnection from oneself, from others or from the world . In fact, depression, anxiety, burnout can be an external manifestation of an innate need to be in touch with one own's self, to have a sense of meaningful purpose in life, or a desire for creative expression. This post aims at helping you reflect and take some steps into the journey of self-acceptance. Making the decision to embark in such journey is indeed an act of faith as you do not know what you will find on the other side. However, if you are still reading this post is because you know this is a needed step in your life. To help you start on this task, I would like to invite you to take a few minutes to think about: a) how well do you know your "inner world"?; b) how connected are you with your "true" self?; c) and, how aligned are you with your values?
Now, that you have grounded yourself, taking the steps below will give you a concrete direction into self-acceptance:
1. Study your inner world
Our inner world is inhabited by thoughts, feelings, memories, expectations, dreams, etc. For the most part, we are able to understand why we behave the way we do; however, sometimes, that is not immediately clear to us. Part of it is because our thoughts and behaviours are automatic, happening outside of our consciousness. The first step to understand our inner world is to slow things down and pay attention to how we behave, think, and feel in some situations, especially stressful ones. The best way to do this is to carry a journal around with you. As you put down in words what is happening inside you, you will start noticing patterns. By learning about these patterns, you will start anticipating your responses to situations, allowing you to move away from reactive reactions into thoughtful ones.
2. Learn from your feelings
Almost always, feelings are a faster path to our inner world. Before we are able to process in our heads what is happening to us, our feelings are already sending signals to our body. Tune in to those signals. Pay attention to what is happening in your body when you are anxious, angry, happy, sad, surprised, etc. Do these without judgement. Just observe them. Once you learn to immediately tune into your body's reactions and recognise which feeling/s you are experiencing, you can then look at feelings as bits of information ("What is my body trying to tell me right now?"; "I am feeling sad, where is this coming from?").
3. Connect with your deep needs
To be able to accept oneself, one needs to connect with their own needs. Often times, we are not comfortable doing this because we limit ourselves by saying that we are not worthy enough. Learning about the patterns of your thoughts and behaviours, and tuning into your feelings, will give you direct access to what is that you need in specific situations. For example, imagine a situation where you felt angry because your partner scheduled an outing with his friends for the same night you both had already arranged to go out for dinner. Imagine that you are feeling angry, perhaps deep inside you are feeling disappointed and not cared for. In this event, your need could be the need to be cared for, acknowledged and made feel that you are a priority in your partner's life. Once you are able to identify your needs, you can then communicate them to those in your life. Continuing with the example above, instead of just showing anger, you could tell your partner that you need to feel that you are important to him/her.
4. Live by your values
Our needs have roots on values. Values are concepts that we attribute a certain meaning to. For example, if the value of spontaneity is important for you, then you will have the need to express yourself in a spontaneous manner. To feel that you are in touch with your "true" self and experience self-acceptance, you will need to live by your values by prioritising and expressing your own needs.
Embrace your self!
If you would like to ready more about the topic of self-development, click here to take you to the post "How to connect with your "true" self"?