Welcoming Our Worst Selves

I have written previous posts about unconditional love, including the love of self. It is a popular topic on the blog because it is so inherent in human nature, at least in our society, to love with conditions, a.k.a., “When I accomplish this, then I will be worthy” or “When I behave in this way, that is when I am deserving.”

When the good times are rolling, it is easier to be self-congratulatory or pleased with the results we have garnered through our hard work. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is not love. Not if when the bad times roll in, we can’t still accept our selves whole-heartedly, forgive, and say “you are enough, even now.”

I am, briefly, having one of the latter moments- a time when my worst self is out on display.  Despite all of the hard work in self-acceptance and careful introspection, I find it is easy to slide down that slippery slope of “What’s wrong with you?” in these type of moments (occassionally at least).

On Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert, she talked with Brene Brown about the creative process and described how, in harder times, we might call a friend who will support us, tell us who we really are through their eyes, why we deserve forgiveness and love.

I find this to be a good guiding principal: When I am at an impasse, a point of “failure,” a point of discrepancy between who I wish to be and how I am behaving, what would my best friend say to me?

She wouldn’t, and didn’t say to me, “You are clearly a terrible person.”  She also didn’t say to me, “Wow. This shows who you really have been all along.”

What she did say to me is this: “You are human.  We are all human.  Part of being human is being imperfect and flawed. That doesn’t make you terrible.”

To summarize the sentiments in the conversation between Brown and Gilbert about self-acceptance:

The antidote to shame is empathy and kindness.

Can you talk to yourself like you talk to your loved ones?  What would you say to someone who failed?  Gilbert summarized a thought that helped her to understand the concept better.  In a time of turmoil, she had a conversation with someone whom she loved, and the person said this:

“What makes you think you are so special that you are the only human being whose not deserving of compassion?  You think you are better than everyone else?”

This statement was a wake up call for Gilbert, and it is something I try to take to heart.  In my own experience, finding the silence and space within has been a gift, and it can only be cultivated through self awareness.  This, though, is something a step further.  Once aware of all those nooks and crannies, can I accept that the beauty there resides right alongside all of my greatest flaws?  Is it possible to get to a point to be one’s own “best friend”?  I am certainly, and by far, the person I spend the most time with…

Until then, I am fortunate to be able to rely on those outside of me to fill me with love and perspective at the moments when I fail to this on my own, to accept me as I am, where I am, even when I don’t hold up to my own standards.  May we all be so lucky.

(On a sub-note, the photo for this post was taken in Sunburst, Montana last week while visiting Jamey’s family. While the weather there was chilly, the scenery was amazing- more on how stepping out into the frosty winter is a plus of the season coming soon.)

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What tools have helped you to regain composure when faced with an aspect of yourself with which you struggle?  What are your strategies for practicing unconditional love of self?  

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