Self-Acceptance

Self-Compassion For The Beach Body We Desire

The Beach Body

As cold weather is replaced with warm weather, people begin to fret about their bodies.  That body that was good enough last week is somehow a major problem this week.  Those curves that we have hidden for months are now on prominent display.  Catalogues and Fashion Websites conspire against us with images of people with flat bellies, and muscular limbs.  We mull these pictures over a cold coffee drink with whipped cream, and decide that we must pledge ourselves to the gym, kale, and gallons of water a day.

Reacting To Our Body Image Concerns In Unhelpful Ways

A couple weeks later, we are exhausted, starving, and spending way too much time thinking about our next meeting with the scale.  Though it seemed impossible a couple weeks ago, we now feel even less content with our bodies, and think about getting another cold coffee drink with whipped cream to consider this recent development.  In all of our efforts to plan and act, we forgot the cardinal rule to being happy: to pursue life in a way that validates, reassures, and empowers us.  

Self-Compassion Steps To Manage Our Beach Body Concerns

So, what do we do with all this warm weather and our bodies?  Validate your concerns.  Acknowledge that you come by your worries honestly.  Our environment is rife with pressure to hone 10 minute abs, and sculpt five minute biceps.  Then, notice where you are feeling tension in your body, and soften around these stress points.  Bring some compassion to your experience.  It is hard work to live in a body, and some days are harder than others.  Increase this sense of compassion and safety by acknowledging that most people share your concerns.  You are not alone!  Then, do something really nice to be kind to yourself. 

Self-Compassion Plan

So often, we respond reactively to worries about our bodies.  We try to avoid our feelings through indulgence or punish these feelings with overly strict action plans. This self-compassion practice will give you the opportunity to be kind to yourself instead, thereby freeing up the mental and emotional space necessary for a validating, reassuring, and empowering plan.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 236.  In The Books.

Don’t Give Up The Heart

Never Give Up

Years ago, midway through my self-compassion practice, I was inspired by a speech the Dalai Lama gave called, “Never Give Up.”  Its basic point was that we spend most of our lives developing the mind with little thought of developing our heart, meanwhile most of our suffering comes from trying to control things with our minds without the capacity to endure, soothe, and nurture things with our hearts. 

I Westernized this teaching for my own purposes, which I entitled, “Don’t Give Up The Heart,” to remind myself that when social forces and peer pressure would ask me to choose my mind, money, power, or status that I needed to prioritize the heart.  It’s pretty logical on its face.  None of the other things last or remain meaningful.  They also fail by themselves to bring you happiness.  It is only when they accompany something else that they become satisfactory, and potentially nice.  That one thing is the heart.

The Watered Down, Westernized View Of The Heart

The problem with urging people to follow and embolden their heart is that many people have a watered down, westernized view of the heart.  They mistake heart for whimsy, self-centeredness, naivete, or personal gratification.  They say, “ I know she was not a great fit for me, but I decided to turn off my brain, and listen to my heart.” 

Really?  Your heart told you to pursue someone that you knew would make you unhappy or cause you great suffering in the future.  I don’t know if you dialed the wrong number, but I would try your heart again.  That sounds more like you followed your ego, or you followed your desire to satiate something.  The heart, the way self-compassion understands it, is the part of yourself that is understanding, supportive, soothing, and urges you towards your core values (the principles that give your life the most meaning).

The Self-Compassionate Heart

The heart, in this sense, makes contact with your immediate experience, and uses your bodily response to be a test of what is really important, what makes you feel most at ease, and how you might go about approaching a reality that prioritizes these two things.  Self-Compassion is the vehicle it uses to be present while forming this blueprint, and then later as the tool to understand, process, and grow from the challenges that you experience along the way.  That is your truth. 

So, asking one to be loyal to their heart is another way to say that they should keep coming back to honoring their truth, and the truths of others despite social pressure to avoid this awareness via the distractions of money, power, and status.  Most of us can understand that.  We have seen celebrities and politicians be able to live a pretty entertaining life with those aforementioned three things until they experience some turbulence, and then without a value placed on their heart and the hearts of others, they find themselves overwhelmed and unable to cope.  It is really not their fault.   If you have never been presented with an opportunity to develop a skill, surely you cannot be expected to exercise it when life gives you its most difficult tests.

Moving Past Social Rewards

Money, power, status, awards, the limelight, we like these things.  How the heck are we supposed to forgo them to go on some weird journey to the heart?  Can’t we just get a t-shirt or some cool beads, and call it a day?  What if we just donate to a really good cause? That’s the funny thing.  There is nothing wrong with money, power, and status on their own.  In fact, you can use all of these things to help people, or even live really well, and we want you to live as well as you can.  That being said, these things cannot be used to replace your personal journey to self-acceptance, purpose, and self-compassion.  There is little about life that makes sense without love, and if you cannot love yourself, you are going to have a heck of a time loving other people, especially the obnoxious ones!

Easy Steps To Help You Never Give Up The Heart

So, have some compassion for yourself, when people ask you to give up your time to recharge, to take care of yourself, to wear or watch things that just make you feel good, and make time for these things anyway because, under no circumstances, will you give up the heart.  Then, nurture the crap out of that heart.  Notice how you feel this very second.  Name it.  Soften around the parts of you that are tense.  Ask yourself how you can be kind to yourself, and incline deeply into the sense of ease this gives you.

Use that as a metric to get a sense of what you need to truly be happy, to be inspired, and to do meaningful things that give you purpose.  You are never too old or too young for self-compassion.  The heart only becomes stronger over time.  Long before we can ever speak, and long after we can speak no more, this very thing will ground us in the ever-changing matrix that is the world.  It is worth developing.  Remember that.  And, no matter what the world offers you, don’t give up the heart.

365 Days of Self-Compassion.  Day 228.  In The Books.


But, This Is Just How I Am! Using Self-Compassion To Overcome Self-Imposed Obstacles.

That’s How I’m Made!

Self-Compassion is necessary, and requires extra skill to overcome self-imposed obstacles.  People whose emotional experience creates difficulties for them in their work, family, dating, and home life often have a tough road ahead of them because they believe their characteristic emotional responses are inborn.  “That is how I am made,” they will say.  “What can I do?  Stop being me?” they will persist.  Still, they suffer, and you cannot help but wonder if this stance is worth committing to this suffering for the long-term.

Changing For Others VS. Learning To Respond To Your Feelings With Self-Compassion

The difference between self-compassion and what people assume are their options, when it comes to modifying emotional responses is that self-compassion honors these feelings.  It does not ask you to change how you feel, but instead to be present to this experience, and respond to it with kindness, so that you have the space to ask yourself what kind of response to these feelings will bring YOU the most well-being. 

This kind of process can be learned, and if these emotional experiences come up so often that you feel they define you, then it sounds like you will have plenty of opportunities to practice.  The rub is that you have to make this effort for you.  If you decide to change your behavior for others you will never give yourself an opportunity to accept yourself, and become the master of your own destiny.

Simple Steps To Move From Impulsive Passion To Ease-Promoting Self-Compassion

So, what does this work look like in real time?  Notice your emotional experience as it arises.  If you feel compelled to react immediately, witness this too.  We are curious beings by nature.  Take the time to look at this impulse.  Think about what it wants.  Track the body parts that tense up in anticipation of what you feel compelled to do.  Soften around these body parts.  Notice your heartbeat slow, and your breathing become long and regular.  Then, think about how you can be kind to yourself.  Now, that you are feeling more at ease in your body, think of an action, if you still feel compelled to act, that will bring you even more ease. 

Success!

And just like that, you have honored your experience, responded to it with compassion, soothed your discomfort, and made room for decisions that will lead you to greater ease and happiness.  So, the next time you are feeling emotionally charged, compelled to act, and concerned about the judgment of others, return to this process, and make room for what your heart most deeply desires.  If you take the time, you will notice that once you start doing things that put you at ease, then you will be more likely to surround yourself with people who support this journey, and they will accept you, scars, scratches, smiles, hopes, dreams, and all.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 212.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For Our Flaws

Oh No!  Not Our Flaws!

We seem to be willing to find room for self-compassion for just about everything, well everything but our flaws.  We draw an imaginary line to let ourselves and others know that there are some parts of us that are downright unacceptable.  As part of our truth, we do not want that perspective refuted.  We know that our nose is too big, or too crooked, or that our cheeks are too fat, too gaunt, or too ill-defined.  We know that we stink, when it comes to relationships, remembering important events, or performing when everything is on the line.  We know that we are not as smart as other people, or as interesting, or as funny, or as lovable.  These are not opinions.  They are facts.

Of course, there are ways to poke holes in these facts because most of them seem to be based on whoever is in the room.  What if you are surrounded by really ugly, dumb, bland people?  What do you do with your facts then?   I think these people would probably take it very badly, if you insisted that you were even uglier, dumber, and blander than they were.  Those are their facts!  How dare you take those facts from them?

Acceptance

All kidding aside, the truth is that you can feel however you want about yourself.  You just need to accept that having those feelings are ok, and yet you are still lovable, and worthy of a meaningful, inspiring life filled with well-being and ease.  That is really the point, anyway.  Isn’t it?  All the descriptors that we have previously mentioned do not determine whether you will live a good life.  In fact, being full of socially idolized qualities may fill your life with superficial, opportunistic relationships that leave you feeling very unfulfilled.

In the end, the things we fear make us less than others are really just ways of describing someone based on what we have learned socially.  Every culture, and every generation has supported different attributes, so it is not like there is a definitive catalogue of must have qualities to live a good life.  If you search your heart, you will find that what you want most is to have a good life, to be accepted, to be appreciated, and to be loved, but if you want all of these things, then you have to be kind, gentle, and supportive to yourself. 

Unconditional Love

Your greatest goal must be to show up with love on even your darkest, most self-critical days because that it is the true sign of unconditional love.  Anybody can do the work on easy days, but we don’t long deeply for acceptance on our easy days.  We long for acceptance on our hardest days.  And, this acceptance is available all of the time.  You just have to promise to work towards it every day, right where you are, and not give up when times are tough, or when being superficial and judgmental just seem easier.

Our deepest flaws exist to give us the most sincere opportunity to give ourselves self-compassion.  You cannot fake it here.  These flaws really make you feel bad to your core, so your attempts at self-compassion must be genuine because you are too smart to be fooled when it comes to your “facts.”  May you accept yourself just as you are.  May you be kind to yourself.  May you never give up this journey, when self-acceptance appears out of reach, and may you bathe in it completely, when it is available.  In this way, it is a lot like raising a teenager.  They don’t always tell you that they love you, but deep down you know it is true, and you allow your love for them to persevere.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 210.  In The Books.

It’s Not All About You

Narcissism Vs. Self-Compassion

One of the most self-compassionate things you can do for yourself is to a get an objective sense of your relative importance to any given story.  People spend far too much time thinking about what others think about them, and how every event that takes place will affect their personal story.  Placing ourselves at the forefront of every story is not self-compassionate.  It’s narcissistic!  The narcissist believes they must be the center of attention to be happy, but ironically tend to be very unhappy.  The self-compassionate person seeks happiness, and in this quest takes as much responsibility as is necessary to support their own journey and the journey of others.

Of course, self-compassion is about your journey, but if you focus too much on yourself, you are going to be miserable!  Think about it.  Every time you are the most important person you have a ton of responsibilities.  After a while of being the most important person, you are going to resent others for all the work you have to do.  This is going to push others away, and you are going to become lonely.  What kind of life is that?  Not a very self-compassionate one.

Social Programming

Here, you are going to have to undo some social programming with your self-compassion practice.  The Internet and your friends will validate you for being the center of attention because they are unaware of the costs.  If you are not savvy, you will gladly take on this attention, and later regret it.  But, now you have a secret weapon: self-compassion.  Given the tools presented with self-compassion, you are aware that being the center of attention all of the time stinks, and is simply a ruse to get you to do more work to entertain others. You are nobody’s donkey show!  You’re a real person!

Easy Self-Compassion Steps To Move From Narcissism To Self-Compassion  

So, acknowledge the voices, either external or internal, that try to convince you to make a particular story about you.  Look at the story for yourself, and with the keen awareness of a curious child, notice everybody’s role in the story.  Now, decide what role you could take that would provide you with the most self-acceptance, kindness, meaningfulness, and ease.  Inhabit that role, and promise yourself you will do less.  Focus instead on the work and connection that brings you the aforementioned positive qualities, and watch as your well-being increases.  Pat yourself on the back for your good work.  Remember, we always move toward that which gives us reward.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 208.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For Your Body Image

Concerns About Our Body Image

Concerns about body image are a well-frequented self-compassion topic.  As the seasons change, people think about the newest trends in clothing.  They research these trends in magazines, on-line, and in their favorite stores.  They look in their closet, and think about which items need to be stored, and which can make a long awaited re-appearance.  Somewhere in this journey, they begin to try things on, and when they don’t fit or these new styles accentuate parts of people’s bodies that they would rather remain hidden, they begin to feel self-critical, sometimes discluded from popular culture, and they turn inward with these feelings with a sense of isolation, disappointment, and shame.

What’s Trending

Are new trends just for those of us, who maintain an athletic or skinny physique?  It appears to depend on where you live, and what is in vogue.  Certainly, big brands have catered to this silhouette for a long time.  We are seeing some changes with specific brands developing clothing for people with more voluptuous figures, but when purchasing these items, some people still feel like their beauty is qualified by an extra descriptor: big, voluptuous, plus size.

If this was not enough, many people with petite or athletic bodies feel that they have body parts that are lacking or compel a kind of interest that creates suffering in their life.  In this game of body image, there seem to be few winners, and many, many losers.  Where do people go, who just want to love their body?  Do they wait on good friends or a significant other or do they figure out a way to have it for themselves?  Maybe, it is a pointless journey, and we simply need to accept that some form of body shame will always be there.

The Genesis Of Body Image Issues

Most body image issues are powered by social values.  Social values are constructed by political, economical, and cultural forces.  Hundreds of years ago, good-looking people were those wealthy enough to have some size.  Fifty years ago, it was popular to be slight, and now athletic bodies are popular.  When you remember what drives public perception of attractiveness, this makes more sense. 

Hundreds of years ago, food was scarce, and people wanted to place a high value on food, so they could sell it for more.  So, bigger was better.  Fifty years ago, food was readily available for many in developed countries, so businesses placed an emphasis on beauty products and tailored clothes because skinniness was more scarce, and it is always easier to sell what is out of people’s reach.  Finally, in recent years, sports have become a very popular form of entertainment, and the supplement/health food market has grown substantially, so now the athletic body is in.

Knowing these things, you now understand that the bodies that are advertised as ideal are done so for profit not because they are based on some infallible equation designed by the gods.  Of course, social pressure will always be there, which makes it hard for us to accept ourselves as we are, but it is equally true that we cannot rely on a model as arbitrary as commerce to determine how beautiful our bodies are.  The only thing we can depend on there is that they find something about our body that we do not like, so that they can get us to buy something!

Increasing Your Positive Body Image With Compassion And Kindness

Save your money, and focus on self-compassion, instead.  Notice the tension that arises, when you begin to become self-conscious about your body image.  Soften around these tense areas.  Notice the thoughts and feelings as they arise, and honor them.  You come by them naturally.  Then, remind yourself that despite social expectations and our own tendency to be strive towards better that what you really need right now is to accept yourself just as you are, and give yourself kindness.  Then, and only then, will you be able to determine if you want to make an effort to be healthier (or if you even need to), and you will know for sure that you need make no effort to be good enough or whole.  You are already good enough or whole, and if you choose to make an effort, it will simply be to add one more thing to love about yourself.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 207.  In The Books.   

Using Self-Compassion To Overcome The Scrutiny Of Others To Do What You Love.

Scrutiny

One surprising use of Self-Compassion is the ability to live the life we desire, while under the scrutiny of others.  Be honest.  There is a job, a hobby, maybe just a garment of clothing that you are dying to try, but you don’t because you are afraid of what people will think.  It makes you sad that you are not living your life as fully as you would like, but you are reassured by the safety you feel in not making yourself vulnerable to judgment.

Self-Conscious

Personally, I love to box, but I am self-conscious about my technique, at times, since I have high expectations, and am so passionate about it.  Some days, it is hard to work the mitts with someone else, or work the heavy bag because I know more seasoned boxers than myself are watching.  Years ago, I might have found one part of it that I was good at it, and stuck to that, safely hidden from scrutiny, but some part of me would be sad.  The longing to practice what I loved freely, passionately, and without reservation would sit like a rock in my heart.

Using Self-Compassion To Do What You Love

Fortunately, I have been practicing meditation and self-compassion for so long that I am aware of what is at stake.  I have repeated the self-compassion phrases may you be safe, may you be free, may you be kind to yourself, may you accept yourself just as you are so many times that I believe them.  I know I am the happiest, when I keep them in mind, and the unhappiest when I hide to avoid the judgment of others. 

With this knowledge, I am also very careful to pick very important people that I trust to support this work.  I am human just like you.  Some weeks I want to hide, but I don’t.  Instead, I lean on my supports and my self-compassion practice, and simply do it anyway.  It is not always pretty, but that is the thing, it does not need to be. Allowing my supports to show up for me gives me greater faith in the world, and it allows those supports to give themselves permission to receive help from me when they need it.  If you can see it, on my path there has been a subtle transformation from the need to hide yielding only disappointment and sadness to a need to hide that yields faith in others and myself.

Have Faith

Trust your own journey, and when there is something that you desire deeply to do, put one foot in front of the other.  Recite the self-compassion phrases to yourself.  Incline gently into your birthright to be happy, and free.  Use this as an opportunity to find supports on your journey.  Be very picky about whom you choose, and promise yourself that you will help them in return if given a chance.  Slowly but surely you will begin to have more faith in yourself, others, and the world.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 205.  In The Books.

Finding And Honoring Your Unique Path To Self-Compassion

The Road To Self-Compassion

The road to self-compassion is never the same for any one of us, which is what makes the journey so uniquely personal, and exciting.  It is also the reason that we trust the results.  They are, in fact, a composite of our proven hypotheses.  Hypotheses like: Maybe this action will generate the kindness and well-being that I need?  Perhaps this one? 

Of course, there are parts of the process that we share, and are already mapped out (Identify the source of bodily stress. Soften around it.  Identify the thought, feeling, or belief.  Understand it compassionately by noticing how you come by it naturally, and think of how you might be kind to yourself.), but that last step (how can I be kind to myself?) is different for all of us.

It is that difference that allows the model to be flexible to fit us all, while being scientific enough to reassure us that it is not a convincing, parlor trick.  We also do not need to get the same results or be in the same place as others to access it, and this is really important as a competitive effort towards well-being would actually negatively affect your results.

That said, we all have a tendency to compare ourselves to others, especially if we live in competitive environments.  So, one potential obstacle to self-compassion is trying to be good at it, or more to the point, trying to be better at it than others.  Self-Compassion, as inferred by the name, is an opportunity to break from the binary of win/lose, and to instead focus on recovery, well-being, and contentment. 

Strained By The Chase

How many of us get so caught up chasing contentment that we fail to realize that it is the chasing part that has made us feel so stressed, overwhelmed, and at times, sick?  I would guess that most of us take this bait.  Buy this face cream, and feel better.  Start this new exercise regime, and feel good enough.  Get this degree or promotion, and finally feel worthy. This is the trouble sometimes in living in a society surrounded by businesses.  People need a reason to sell you stuff, and the most compelling reason is your unhappiness, so sometimes they infer that you are unhappy to get you to bite.  What is the saying?  Everything is fair in love and war.  Tell that to the wounded!

Cultivating Self-Compassion From Disappointment

So, let’s say that you take the bait, and you are feeling disappointed because this new things has not made you feel better in a meaningful way, and you are starting to feel like a sucker.  Acknowledge that like most of us you are doing your best every day to have a good life, and that makes you vulnerable to tough days. 

These tough days leave you wonting, and advertisers are good at selling to people, who feel disappointed.  Then, notice where you are feeling tension, and soften around this part.  Remind yourself that you come by your experience naturally.  Now, ask yourself as a loving friend would, “How can I be really kind to myself in this moment?” 

And, just like that your prior disappointment has become fertile ground for growing self-compassion.  Your path will not always be obvious, but where there is joy (happiness you are sad will not last) or suffering (pain you fear will last forever), you will always have an opportunity to practice self-compassion.   

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 204.  In The Books.

Don’t Be Sidetracked By Suffering. Approach It With Sincerity And Compassion Instead.

Honesty And Sincerity

The only way for self-compassion to work is to approach it with honesty, and sincerity.  I would be a pretty poor teacher if I did not struggle with my own practice, at times.  Recently, I trained a little too strenuously at the gym, and have to work with a tightened back. I also watched a show that reminded me of my greatest vulnerability: that some day I might lose my grandmother, my mother, and my Aunt Susan.  In times like these, self-compassion asks that we greet these challenges with a gentle curiosity, the ability to notice how these challenges feel in the moment, and how to accept that they are present, even if done so with resignation.

It would be easy to ignore these issues, run from them with distraction, or pretend that they are needless worries, but somewhere inside me would be building up these concerns, while simultaneously doing nothing to accept that I come by them genuinely, and am allowed to be aggrieved by them.  That is what is necessary for true self-compassion to take place. 

Suffering And Grief Sidetracks Us

We fear suffering and grief.  That is why we run from them, but the faster we run, the more they own us.  We start to change our lives to avoid these feelings, and lose important opportunities for self-acceptance, and love.  Personally, I love to train, so it is important for me to accept that some days I will have some pain, and can honor that pain without allowing it to determine my future actions.  Similarly, I love my grandmother, and my mother, and my Aunt Susan more than anything in the known or unknown worlds.  I want to honor that.  I also want to honor the fear of losing them.  And, I want to do both things, so that I am free to love them without reservation right now.

How Not To Be Sidetracked By Suffering And Grief

We always think that actively changing our experience will make it better, and that it will give us control, but often times the need to change it is what controls us, and the changes we make only strengthen that control.  So honor your thoughts, your wishes, your body, those you love most, your fears, your dreams, and everything in between.  Get to know your experience as a kind friend would, give yourself permission to feel as you do naturally, and bring kindness to this experience, so that you are free to live your life instead of having your life live you.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 203.  In The Books.

To Be Self-Compassionate Or To Be Self-Critical? That Is The Question.

Time To Decide

There comes a time in everyone’s life, where they must decide whether they are going to live a life of self-compassion or self-criticism.  I have worked with several people that asked if I could just prescribe self-compassion; tie their hands in effect.  I suppose that I could, but in the long run it would really do them a disservice.  You see the success of your self-compassion practice depends on your desire to live a meaningful, fulfilling, and compassionate life. 

Hard To Say No To Self-Criticism

Without this deep, burning desire, self-criticism will remind you of your time together, and it will probably be too hard to say no.  Self-criticism is a lot like that ex that is really no good for you, but you know well.  When you are unwilling to risk your heart for a good life, you become complacent, lonely, and desperate, and that ex slides right in there.

Near Death Insights

If you are a deeply motivated person, it might be easy for you to pick self-compassion, especially if you have already hit rock bottom, and feel that you have little else to lose.  However, if you are on the fence, it might be hard to choose self-compassion, so I have devised a short-term tool that you can use.  Remember, this is just a tool.  You have to make room to have a good life, and that includes stepping away from people, events, and habits that bring you down.  That might sound like a lot, but if you were on your death bed, it would seem like very little given what it will afford you.

An Easy Tool To Sway Your Choices Towards Self-Compassion

Ok, back to the tool I promised.  Imagine yourself as a 5 year old child, deeply, loving, but powerless in many ways.  Then, imagine yourself set up with a family on a foreign island.  If you could ask this family to do three things for you, what would they be? Promise these things to the 5 year old you.  Now, and this is the important part, you are all grown up, but the promise you have made to the 5 year old you is still valid.  I imagine these choices were made with compassion in mind.  Fulfill these promises today, and you will be well on your way to a self-compassionate life.  Kazaam!  Did we just get you a self-compassionate life in 5 minutes?  We must make a great team!

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 201.  In The Books.