Self acceptance and the Inner Bitch: 4 ways to feel better

It’s a well known cliche that you cannot love others unless you love yourself. I’m not entirely sure about that one, but what I would like to add to that is that it’s incredibly difficult to accept love from others unless you can see yourself as lovable. How you frame your relationship with You is very important. Your relationship with yourself is the one relationship you will have access to every day of your life.

And it’s difficult to be friendly with yourself when you’re feeling bad. You may feel angry with yourself for experiencing pain or being sad. You may be regretful or guilty about decisions you’ve made. And all those feelings are acceptable and can be dealt with, but it’s really important to remember that YOU CANNOT HATE YOURSELF BETTER.

You can’t hate yourself into thinness, or happiness, or social comfort, or intelligence, or a higher salary, any more than you can beat a child into stopping crying. In fact hating yourself can only take an already crappy situation and make it feel ten times worse. In your times of need, you have most need of yourself. If you don’t value and support You, it is very difficult to accept support from others, because you feel so undeserving, and often almost ashamed of your need for support. Also, if you feel undeserving and devalue yourself, the people around you will pick up on that in a thousand unconscious, subtle ways and they will reflect that back to you. In short, if you believe that you are a fool, you will communicate that unknowingly all the time and people will respond to you as if you were a fool.

Acceptance means understanding and being OK with what it means to be human. You ARE human. You cannot deny this: there you sit, right now, in your chair, being human. And thing about being human is that we are imperfect. To accept that you are human is to accept that you are fallible.

Self acceptance does not mean choosing some of your (doubtless many) good attributes or behaviours and being proud of them. You’re completely allowed to be proud of your dancing prowess, or your skill at work, or your ability to bake perfect cookies, but there will inevitably come a day when you don’t dance well, or when you make a mistake at work, or when the baking goes all pear-shaped; and what then? Does that mean you can no longer feel affection for yourself?

Self acceptance also doesn’t mean that you never change or grow. We are by nature designed to grow and to want more: it’s why little babies learn to walk. But reaching for something from a place of gentle acceptance of what IS allows for a much kinder journey.

Oftentimes our inner dialogue reflects the worst of the parenting or guidance we have received: your inner voice reflects the fear and anxieties about imperfections that you may have grown up with, at school or from peers or teachers or often from parents. Sometimes it’s directly related to how we were spoken to as kids, and how we heard our parents speak about themselves. We grow an Inner Bitch, always ready to point out our flaws in graphic detail. It’s as if by giving attention to flaws and mistakes we can magically change them. It’s time to parent yourself differently: soothe, encourage and support the changes you want to make, don’t let yourself off the hook of putting in work that needs to be done, but always accept your humanness. (Parenthetically how you talk to you own kids is important for the same reason, as is how your kids see you treating yourself).

Self acceptance means that you give yourself permission to be YOU, warts and all. If your bum is too fat, embrace the bum-ness of it. If your nose if too big, it’s ok because it looks like YOUR nose. One of my patients once said, “Superwoman is dead. She tried to do everything.” Aspiring toward improvement is one thing; internally killing yourself because you are (unavoidably) imperfect is another. Have you ever hated anyone else because they had a big nose? Probably not. So why hate you?

This isn’t an easy habit to cultivate though. Here are some tricks to help you along the way.

  1. Check your self talk. If you come down on yourself like a ton of bricks every time something goes wrong or you spot a little imperfection, that will crash your mood. Rule of thumb: you’re not allowed to say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t to a friend or to a child. If you wouldn’t call your friend an idiot after a mistake at work, you can’t call yourself that. Be kind and supportive and encouraging.
  2. When you spot a mean bit of inner dialogue, disagree with your Inner Bitch: No, I’m not an idiot. I’m HUMAN. The thing about this statement is that it’s irrefutable: you ARE human. no part of you can deny that. And with human comes fallible.
  3. Stop adding any disclaimers when you talk to other people: no more “this may be a stupid question”, or “sorry to ask, but…” or “I may sound crazy, but…” Stop presupposing your own lack of worth. Your inner self is always listening. Don’t put you down. It hurts.
  4. Stop complaining about yourself. If you’re not thin enough, fast enough, pretty enough, efficient enough, happy enough etc etc etc you surely won’t get there by focusing constantly on your flaws. If the story goes “I’m not good enough” , change it to “I’m human, and I’m doing my best” or “I’m going to change this lovingly and kindly”. As a kid, you responded much better to encouragement that to cruelty, right? Why should grown-up You be any different?

Author: Joce©Psych in a Box

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