Learn to Love and Accept YourselfDo you ever have trouble loving yourself completely and accepting yourself with all your warts and bruises? If so, it’s probably because you’re stuck in an old, outdated image of who you really are. The solution is to shift that image and see yourself from new perspectives. The more different ways you can view yourself, the more self-approval, fulfillment, and joy you’ll begin to feel.
This truth was brought home recently to my friend Shelly. She told me about an exercise she performed that was a breakthrough moment for her. She saw herself in a whole new light when she wrote her autobiography not from her own viewpoint but in the words of an objective observer. Here’s how she shaped her life story:
Once upon a time there was a cute little girl who was loved by her family. Her mother wanted the little girl to be perfect, clean, neat, and well-mannered. Her dad was busy with work and sports. She always wanted her dad to spend time with her and her mom to accept her as she was.
She was sexually abused as a teen and told her parents, but they never wanted to talk about it, and the man was never arrested or punished. She tried to forget what had happened, but she was confused and frightened. When she grew up, she never felt valued or important and had a hard time relating to men.
The story changed when she became willing to surrender, to let go of that anxious child who needed to feel power. She did work that helped others and encouraged people to believe in themselves. She took good care of her body and soul. She reached out to become more effective in her career by speaking and writing about her work. She became active in her community, gave away some of what she had, and felt peaceful and grateful.
She was no longer that scared, helpless kid. She was a competent adult who knew how to meet any challenge that came her way. When the little girl inside her cried out for attention, she took care of her in productive, nourishing ways rather than indulging in junk food or other hurtful behaviors. She loved, protected, and cherished that sweet child who had tried so hard for so long. She became the mother and father the little girl had always longed for. Instead of living happily ever after, she pushed forward every day and learned to love the struggle.
Shelly found this exercise healing in many ways. She was able to feel kinder toward the innocent child of her story than she had ever felt for the adult Shelly. Feeling empathy for that little girl helped her forgive myself for being such a flawed, imperfect person.
Try this exercise yourself. Write about your life in the third person (he or she) rather than the first person (I, me). View yourself as a character in a story. For example, instead of saying, “I was raised by an alcoholic father,” you might say, “He was raised by an alcoholic father.”
You needn’t write your whole autobiography. Just think of a time you felt disappointed in yourself or angry with yourself or ashamed of yourself. Or recall a crisis in your life, a time when everything seemed to be falling apart.
Write about that time as if you’re a character in a book or movie. Imagine it happened to someone else. Viewing yourself with a more objective eye is a good way to see yourself with more clarity and compassion.
See if this exercise helps you as much as it helped Shelly. Can you think of other ways you can tell your story from new vantage points – perhaps through poetry, or role playing, or by asking other people to share their perspectives on you? What other ideas do you have? Share your story at my website WakingUpHappyBook.com. I look forward to hearing from you!