Sunday, May 25, 2008

Understanding and accepting yourself

At a certain point in your development, you may get tired of trying to fix yourself — or perhaps you’ve done such a good job that it’s time to move on to the next phase. Here you realize that some patterns keep recurring and struggling to change them just makes them more entrenched, and you decide to shift from “fixing” to self-awareness and self-acceptance. As NBA coach Phil Jackson puts it in his book Sacred Hoops, “If we can accept whatever hand we’ve been dealt, no matter how unwelcome, the way to proceed eventually becomes clear.”
I like to compare change to one of those woven Chinese finger puzzles that were popular when I was a kid: The harder you pull, the more stuck you get. But if you move your fingers toward one another — the gesture of self-acceptance —you can free them quite easily. If you’re tormented by self-blame, self-doubt, or self-judgment, you may be drawn to meditation as a way of learning to accept and even love yourself.
In my work as a psychotherapist, I’ve found that mean-spirited self-criticism can wreak havoc in the psyches of otherwise well-balanced people — and the antidote almost inevitably involves self-acceptance, what the Buddhists call “making friends with yourself.” When you practice accepting yourself fully, you soften and open your heart, not only to yourself, but ultimately to others as well.

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