It’s nearly new year, a time when people hope for positive change. Many people make resolutions towards January, and then fall back by around February. They get discouraged, and their old habits of mind and body return. It seems so hard to make significant changes.
SELF-ACCEPTANCE AND CHANGE
I want to talk briefly about self-acceptance and change. We need both, in order to change sustainably. If we try to change without accepting ourselves, then life will be a battle in which we are acting against our present selves, in the vain hope of an unclear future. Equally, if we accept ourselves without changing, then life will be lazy and stagnant. As I say, we need both.
In my work with clients, we often discuss self-empathy. We may grow up with parents who are implicitly judgemental. They don’t mean to hurt us, but they instil in us an internal police officer, or inner critic. This is the voice that whispers ‘I’m not good enough.’ We watch ourselves, criticise ourselves, but with little self-acceptance. Reflecting the parental thought ‘I don’t like how you’re being, but I will like you when you change,’ we develop a similar inner dislike of our present selves.
Over time, we can learn to change this critical self-view. Instead, we can develop a healthier attitude towards ourselves, in which we think: ‘I’m fine as I am, but I want to go in this direction now.’ We can learn to be self-accepting, and yet changing, at the same time.
START FROM WHEREVER YOU ARE
It’s called starting from wherever you are. It’s an authentic way to live, because we can’t really be anywhere else. We can look in the mirror, and accept what we see. It may not be film-star looks looking back at us, but who cares? We may not be in the situation we hope for ourselves, but who cares? We are where we are. And we can work with that.