When you get into “kicking yourself mode” (finding fault with yourself and heaping guilt upon the behaviors you wish you could change), you feel like you are doing the right thing and pushing yourself to change. In reality, you are getting yourself further stuck in the mud.
As a result of judging yourself, you realize you are also finding more fault with others, which leads them to find fault with you, which makes you feel worse about yourself … and the whole thing continues its downward spiral.
You observe yourself:
– withdrawing inward and shutting others out
– perpetuating exactly the behaviors that you do not want to be doing
– seeing the negative and the hurt more and more.
Instead, try looking at yourself as a person who is doing the best you can, given the level of awareness you have right now. While you may not find yourself to be perfect, you can see that even your worst behaviors may be done with positive intentions. You are probably protecting yourself, and the coping strategies you have developed have likely benefited you in some way in the past.
When you accept yourself, even when you are at your worst, you make an agreement with yourself that you will appreciate, affirm, and support who you already are in this moment—which is exactly what Christ does. You can then see the advantages of who you have become and the experiences you have had. When you tell yourself, I love myself, even though I sometimes ________________________, it makes it easier to change whatever that fill-in-the-blank is in your life.
Self-acceptance leads to a new life with new possibilities that did not exist when we were caught up in the struggle. Keep in mind that you do not have to be unhappy with yourself to change things about yourself that you do not like.
You can ask yourself these questions:
When I behave in a way that I do not like, what benefit am I gaining?
This may seem like a silly question, because at first it seems like you are not benefitting at all—your bad behaviors are just adding to your frustration with yourself. With closer examination, you may find that there are hidden benefits galore. Perhaps this behavior is protecting you from looking stupid, from being too vulnerable, or from humiliating yourself in some way. Perhaps underneath it all, you are seeking to gain peace, respect, love, and/or security. When you come to realize what these benefits are, it may feel like a sudden revelation. All at once you know that there are better and more honest ways to receive these benefits you so greatly desire. You can almost picture yourself breathing a sigh of relief.
Am I more than my behaviors?
You may already be starting to realize that there is a distinction between who you are and what you do. At times, you have behaved brilliantly and have found more internal strength than you could have ever imagined you had. At other times, your behavior seems childish even to yourself. So who are you?
In time you will discover that you are much more than what you happen to be doing, or how you happen to be feeling, at a given moment. When you believe that you have been wonderfully created to be a blessing in this world, and that—warts and all—you are uniquely designed for the tiny bit of the world that you occupy, you can start to give yourself a bit of grace.
What is my source of strength?
As you discover what you are really looking for—be it peace, kindness, security, or love—find out which spiritual beliefs will help you to move TOWARD those good things. These truthful and kind beliefs are a real source of strength. For example, one person who is looking for security may find that her source of strength is found in this truth: There is enough safety for me in this world. Your source of strength is a gift from God waiting for you, and it will come to you when you are quiet and listening for a moment.
Take a few moments for this Action Step; you can come back to it again and again.
When you are ready, find a quiet place to take a few moments for this important first step. Begin by finding a warm, comfortable position in which you can sit or lie down in a soothing way.
Begin to consciously allow the Holy Spirit to gift you with feelings of love and kindness toward yourself, perhaps by saying inwardly: I am God’s beloved child. I am united with the one who created me just as I am. I am one in spirit with him. May I be free from anger; may I be free from hatred; may I be filled with compassion; may I feel God’s kindness toward me.
While you imagine or picture yourself with this lovingkindness, imagine also what kind of unconditional love is available to you—that love that accepts you and loves you as you are. Picture yourself in your life story, regarded in completeness by the great I AM who is perfectly loving and perfectly wise. He is the One who appreciates you dearly, who sees the real you and loves you—the real you, with all your weaknesses. Just be in the presence of God in any posture that is comfortable for you, breathe softly, be still for a while, and enjoy the presence of that completely loving One.
As you sit quietly, you may be surprised to find your source of strength appearing in your awareness. You can take this knowledge with you, and you can rely on it to be there when you need it.
Take a deep breath once again and gently exhale as you go on into your day.
Questions to consider: Will you take a few minutes now to do the action step? What things hinder you from sitting quietly and taking a deep breath?