How to Accept & Love Yourself

There are many paths to self-acceptance and self-love and what I am about to share with you is based on my own personal and professional experience of helping myself and others walk this path. Whilst this can be very challenging work, and requires a lot of courage and willingness, it nonetheless has the potential to bring profound changes in your emotional well-being and the way you feel and live your life.
 
The path to self-acceptance and self-love starts with a commitment to being more gentle and kind towards ourselves. This means attending to the needs of our body and mind and relating to ourselves in a way that honours our innate preciousness and value. Learning how to process our emotions (module three), healing any grief and recovering from trauma is an important part of this. It’s about developing and deepening a loving relationship with ourselves, whilst embracing our imperfections. We are perfectly imperfect human beings. We are going to make ‘mistakes’, say the wrong things, berate ourselves, fail to meet our needs, forget to meditate, upset people and that’s all ok – the key is to see that we are doing those things, learn from them, take responsibility for any consequences and move forward with a renewed commitment to our emotional well-being, to living in integrity and authenticity. One of the best places to start your self-acceptance journey is with the body

1 • make peace with your body

 
This exercise is designed to explore and shift the relationship that you have to your body to one that is accepting and loving. It’s a powerful exercise that I use in my Freedom Process workshop. If you think it might be too challenging, particularly if you have body-image issues, you might want to consider coming on my workshop. Alternatively you could do this exercise in the presence of someone who you trust and who is supportive of you. Here are the instructions:
 
  1. Write down all of the different ways you don’t accept your body. If you struggle with this ask yourself the question, ‘What would I change about my body if I could?’ Don’t hold back with your use of language!
 
For example:
 
  • I resent the fact that my left ear is lower than my right ear
  • I don’t like my breasts, they are misshapen and ugly
  • My legs are too short
  • My bum is massive
  • I’m fat
 
  1. Now write a list of what you do like about your body. If your instant response is, ‘I don’t like anything’, take a couple of deep breaths and look in the mirror – you might find something.
 
For example you might write:
 
  • I like my brown eyes
  • I love my dimples
  • I like my long legs
 
  1. Find yourself a large piece of paper and draw a picture of your body back and front – it doesn’t have to be a work of art, just recognisable. Then, using different colours, shade in the areas that you don’t love using a colour that feels appropriate. For each shaded area write in the thought(s) you have about that part. Once that is completed shade in the parts of you that you accept/like/love. This should be in a different colour, again one that feels appropriate.
 
  1. Having completed your diagram, focus on each body part in turn, starting with those that you don’t like first.
 
  • Breathe deeply and allow yourself to locate where you are feeling the unprocessed emotional charge in your body. If you struggle with this, think back to an occasion when you were triggered by something and as a result started to think negatively about your body image.
 
  • For each body part, process the emotional charge that you are feeling using EmoTrance. Continue with each one, moving onto the body parts you do like/love.
 
  • If you sense any block to these, release them also, until you get to the stage when you look at the diagram of your body and not only don’t feel any negativity, but feel warmth towards your body.
 
 

2 • discover your masks

 
Part of the self-acceptance and self-love process involves being authentically ourselves. Becoming authentic and genuine requires honest self-expression and a willingness to take off the masks that we have been wearing for most of our lives and to embrace the vulnerability and openness that is felt when we do so. Here is how.
 
A mask is a pattern of behaviour and a way of being that is designed to avoid and cover up the emotional pain that resides within our body. We use a variety of masks, usually without knowing, in order to hide from others and ourselves. What’s more for the period of time that we are identified with them we will take their distorted and limited beliefs, desires and world view to be true.  Put another way, when we have a mask on, we significantly limit our ability to experience the fullness and truth of who we are.
 
These masks were once essential to our well-being, hence why we tend to hang onto them for dear life. We developed them in reaction to our childhood circumstances in order to get and maintain the attention that we needed and to survive and adapt to our childhood circumstances. However most of us have continued using them, even though they were never designed to be used all of the time in adulthood. Our true true self, that aspect of ourselves that exists beyond and under the masks is designed for adulthood and it’s that which we need to discover. We aren’t turning our back on these survival strategies, we do have useful traits and qualities that are essential to a healthy and fulfilling life, the problem comes when we let ourselves be defined and controlled by them.
 
 
What Masks Do You Wear?
 
Read through the following descriptions of some of the commonly used masks and as you do so, make a record in the chart at the end as to which ones you use and under which circumstances. Most people have a combination of three or four that are used depending on the situation we find ourselves in.
 
The Strong Person projects a mask of calmness and composure at all times, either because they are emotionally shut-down or expert at hiding their feelings. This is particularly common with men
 
The Perfectionist does things tasks or jobs to super human standards. When mistakes are made they are either covered up or used as an excuse for mental self-flagellation. Perfectionists find it very hard to admit that they have made a mistake.
 
The Busy Person occupies their time with mental and physical activity/doings (usually at the expense of their health and relationships.) Busy people are often very rushed and put themselves under a lot of pressure
The Overachiever is a highly driven, competitive individual, who whilst always trying to (and often) measuring up to the expectations of others, rarely meet the expectations that they have for themselves.
 
The Rebel as the name suggests rebels against anything or anyone who they perceive is trying to control them.
 
The Joker uses humour as a defence against intimacy and to cover up the sadness and discomfort that lies underneath the ‘smiley’ face. Whilst most jokers are genuinely funny, they take it the extreme by having humour as a default response to virtually any given situation.
 
The Rescuer is someone who needs to be needed. They derive a sense of self from getting involved in and often taking responsibility for other peoples’ business. Often with great concern and kindness the rescuer will take you under their wing and tell you exactly what you should be doing in order to you’re your life better, according to what they think better looks like for you.
 
The Intellect uses facts, information and knowledge to generate feelings of superiority, safety and control. Terrified of being wrong and even more terrified of authentic emotional intimacy and vulnerable feelings, the intellect attempts to elevate above the ‘lesser world’ of emotion, by taking up residence in the world of thought, logic and rational thinking.
 
The Exaggerator is someone who has learnt and still believes that to get the attention and positive response they want from other people they need to either lie or twist and distort the truth. Feeling that the truth is never enough, the exaggerator is expert at story telling and boasting and bragging.
 
The Victim is a wounded child who seeks sympathy and attention from others in order to feel a sense of power and belonging. A victim often has a ‘poor me’ story to hand, if they can find someone to listen, about how things have gone or are going bad for them.
 
The Loner is a highly needy person, who rejects and attempts to hide their neediness by pretending they don’t need anyone. Driven by the pain and loneliness of not belonging and having an implicit distrust of others, loners tend to keep themselves to themselves. If they are in relationships they tend to be aloof and emotionally closed down.
 
The Perennial Optimist is someone who projects a very high level of happiness, fun in order to hide the pain and shame that lies underneath it. Rather than seeing and embracing reality as it is, they prefer to live within a superficial bubble of positivity and happiness.
 
The People Pleaser is an expert in meeting the needs of others and trying to make others happy, but doing so at the expense of their own needs (and often health). A people pleaser is expert in saying and doing what they think others want them to do and be.
 
The Charmer is a predatory creature who uses their sharp intellect and charisma to melt away an individual’s defences (and common sense) so that the person becomes their play thing. They are often charming, personable and smooth talking. Charmers are also expert manipulators and will often tell you want you want to hear in order to make you feel special/wanted.
 

Your Masks

 

Score 1 for plays role rarely; 3 for sometimes; 5 for most of the time

 

                                                Score               When Used                             

The Strong Person

The Perfectionist

The Busy Person

The Overachiever

The Rebel

The Joker

The Rescuer

The Intellect

The Exaggerator

The Victim

The Loner

The Perennial Optimist

The People Pleaser

The Charmer

 
Now you have identified what masks and role you play, the next step is to watch out for the times and situations when you slip into the mask or role. When you do notice yourself in a mask or role, ask yourself the following question – how would truth respond to this moment? Breathe deeply and allow your true self to direct your actions in that moment. This takes a little getting to, but it is a very powerful way to disengage a mask or role.

3 • let go of your resentments

 

One of the red light warnings that you are still yet to fully embrace your emotional well-being potential and adult maturity is that you haven’t fully processed the resentments that you carry.

 

Pretty much everyone has resentments, although not everyone will admit it. Resentments are bundles of toxic thoughts and emotions that stop you from thriving and flourishing. Whilst present and unprocessed, they prevent you from being present being at peace and living with an open heart. I like to think of them as heavy emotional baggage or lead weights that we carry around with us. Imagine carrying luggage cases full of clothes wherever you go, just think how exhausting that would be! It’s the same with resentments, it requires energy to not let go of them.

 

Most people have resentments, because most people have experienced pain and hurt in relationship to someone else or something else. If someone burgled your house, or shouted at you, after the initial shock, you would probably experience thoughts and feelings of resentment and anger.  Deeper resentments happen when we have been deeply wounded (emotionally and physically). You might have been neglected or abused in childhood or been attacked in adulthood – either way all of these trigger the creation of the toxic bundle of thoughts and emotions called resentments. Whilst having resentments often feels uncomfortable, they can provide a sense of righteousness, we feel justified in having them because of what happened. The problem as I mentioned before is that the downside is that resentments are toxic to us.

 

The Power of Forgiveness

 

Forgiveness is the process, by which you let go of your resentments. It’s not about forgetting or minimising what has happened, but about reclaiming your energy and life force so that you can live your life in a way that is no longer negatively influenced and limited by the issue about which you have resentment. Forgiveness is first and foremost for your benefit, not the other person. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. 

 

How to Forgive

 

What follows is what I do with my own clients.

 

Create a Resentment Inventory

 

You need to give yourself plenty of time to do this. Make a list of everyone and everything against which you have resentments, however little that resentment might be. Remember you have energy and life force trapped in that resentment - this is your opportunity to reclaim it. Once you have made the list, re-order it, so that the person or thing with which you have the strongest resentment is as the top. Watch out for your minds tendency to gloss over someone. To know whether you have a resentment you need to slow down, breathe deeply and ask yourself ‘do I hold any resentment against this person or thing’. Discomfort in your body suggests you do. Of course for some people and things it will be obvious you do.

 

If you are doing the forgiveness work for personal growth reasons, you might want to go even deeper, by listing every significant person that you have spent time with. Whilst this sounds like a lot to do, most people can do it in an hour. Write down a list of all your family members, girlfriends/boyfriends, friends, teachers, doctors/therapists, significant others and then for each one write down any resentment that you might have.

 

The Forgiveness Process

 

Most of my clients have at least one person with whom they are holding a lot of resentment, usually a partner (current / ex), family member or a perpetuator. The principles with which I work the forgiveness process is to

 

  1. start getting the story clear about what exactly happened
  2. share that story with at least one person with whom you trust and who can receive that story non-judgmentally
  3. start processing the feelings that come up, especially anger and grief/sadness

 

This might take an hour, month or even a couple of years. You will know when it is complete when you truly feel at peace with that person. The processing of your feelings is not something that happens automatically unfortunately, it is something that you need to take action on. There are many ways to process your emotions – module three has a number of suggestions. In addition to these you might want to consider writing a letter about how you feel (but not necessarily sending it), creating a ritual, start a new organisation or campaign, write a course.

 

For some clients I take the work even deeper by asking them to research the life (or if that is not possible to imagine the life) that the person has been living prior to the problem happening. The key is to get a real sense of what was going on for that person in that period of time. Your intention is to really understand why they did what they did. For example what was their childhood like (if you don’t know imagine what it was like?) What fears and insecurities were they operating from? How much shame and emotional pain were they in? To answer these you might need to speak to relatives and friends, people who know this person. As you do this more emotion will probably come up, as it does by gentle with yourself and process it, preferably in the presence of someone who can give you unconditional support. As you continue this process, compassion will eventually start to arise automatically.

 

True forgiveness comes not from artificially and intellectually being compassionate towards someone, but as a consequence of healing and processing the uncomfortable emotions that surround your heart. As they are integrated the heart starts to open and with that comes a natural outpouring of love, understanding and compassion. Compassion comes from the heart not the head. When we are able to experience compassion we see the truth that everyone is only ever doing the best they can given the life they have lived and experienced

 

The Self-Forgiveness Process

 

One person not to forget about when it comes to resentments is yourself. Many people hold strong resentments against themselves because of something they had done or not done that they deemed unacceptable. Andrew a 40 year old client of mine held three major resentments against himself. The first was that he never asked his childhood sweetheart to marry him (by the time he got round to doing it, she had found someone else). The second was related to the fact that he hated the fact he was nor richer and more successful. And the third was the time he hit his girlfriend (now wife). All three were restricting his ability to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

 

For the first two, I got Andrew to follow the instructions for the forgiveness process. By allowing himself to feel fully his feelings and process them, he after just one week felt more at peace with himself. He also realised that the desire for wealth and fame, was a belief he had borrowed from his father. For the third resentment, I encouraged him to make an amends to his wife and then having made the amends to process any residual feeling.

 

Making Amends

 

Making amends is the process of taking responsibility for your actions by communicating and apologising with sincerity and maturity to the person that you upset/hurt. Amends come from the heart, not the head. Whilst Andrew has apologised ‘a thousand times’ and bought his wife many ‘compensatory’ gifts, all of these words and actions were driven by guilt, not love. With his new insights Andrew was able to make an amends with his wife. After he did so both were able to hold each other as they cried and shared their tears of sadness and relief with one another. Andrew remarked how afterwards he and his wife were feeling so much alive, healthy and cleansed. That’s the power of amends.


4 • experience self-love

 

Whilst for some people it is fairly easy to show kindness and love to other, for most people the struggle and challenge is to experience unconditional self-love. The following exercise is a version of one I use on my workshop this has been adapted for you use by yourself at home.

 

The Mirror

 

  • Find a time when you will be completely alone and undisturbed for at least 30 minutes.
  • Stand in front of a mirror – preferably a full length one, and say to yourself out loud whilst looking at yourself – I love you. Don’t worry if you don’t mean it – this will still work!
  • Do this again, but this time breathe deeply and slowly and say it slower – I – LOVE - YOU
  • As you say these words become aware of your body, where in your body do those words feel blocked – where can you feel some discomfort? Most people feel it in their heart, stomach or throat area – but it can be anywhere. What you are feeling is the location of a block in the vital body that is preventing these words from flowing through and energising your body. To release the block:
  • Say out aloud that I LOVE YOU – now close your eyes, and breathe slowly in and out through the area that is blocked – what you are feeling is just energy that wants to flow.
  • Now speak to that energy and tell it to soften and flow, if it helps massage the area gently. Eventually you are going to notice that the energy is moving. This can take a minute or two
  • Now sense which direction the energy wants to move to – it will be up, down, to the side, backwards or straight out of the body. This energy knows which way it wants to go!
  • Now ask yourself ‘if this energy could exit my body, where would it choose to leave?’ You should get a sense of it. The first time you do this you’ll be quite surprised because there will be a definite exit route – such as the top of the head, out the ears, eyes, mouth or nose, or maybe out of the hands or feet. Either way, allow the energy to flow of your body, telling it gently and lovingly to ‘soften and flow’ as you go.
  • Eventually you’ll sense that the energy has moved out of your body – this can take anywhere between a couple of seconds and twenty minutes – if it takes longer, just be client, breathe deeply and ‘soften and flow.’ If you get to this stage – well done you are doing really well.
  • Now repeat the process – saying I LOVE YOU. This time the block might be in the same location, or somewhere else completely different. Do exactly what you did before until the energy has flowed out of the body completely. Then keep repeating until you get to the stage when saying the words I LOVE YOU completely energises and uplifts you. When you feel those words, when you know in your heart that those words are true then you have successfully completed this exercise.

 

The approach to self-love that I teach is the self-love meditation. It’s a powerful meditation that I used to use a lot in my early days of growing up. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to use it and experience the way it positively shifts your energy and well-being.

 

The Self-Love Meditation

 

  • Sit still, close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths in and out.
  • Bring to mind someone or something that you have a deep unconditional love and appreciation for.
  • If you can’t think of anyone, imagine what the feelings would be like if you did have someone for whom you felt unconditional love.
  • As you focus on that person or thing, notice what you are feeling in your bodymind and breathe in and out of those feelings, so that they start to expand.
  • Once you can feel that loving appreciation in your body, release the image and send the loving appreciation that you are feeling down to your feet.
  • Gradually move your attention up the entire length of the body, sending loving appreciation to every single cell of your body. This might take a couple of seconds or minutes – do whatever feels comfortable or natural.
  • Once you reach the top of your head, take some time to enjoy the peace and stillness. If you sense any blocks anywhere use EmoTrance to process it. Continue until your whole body is buzzing with warmth, expansion and self-love.

Click here to return to the module seven overview

 

 

 


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