It was several years back, I was out on a run, and it was one of those where the time just flies by because my mind was wandering. These runs are like therapy and you can’t make them happen on demand, you just have to take them when they come. I had one of those and I remember coming home and thinking that if I was a fairy, like a tiny Tinkerbell, with a wand, who can run around and make magical things happen, I would be the fairy of SELF ACCEPTANCE.
Coaching athletes it’s one of my jobs to constantly remind people that they are okay, they are loved, they are right where they need to be, everything will work out, etc. And I find that it’s very easy to be honest with others in this way. It’s easy to support others in their endeavors and to believe in them and accept them for who they are, good, bad, and otherwise. It’s easy to tell them when they need to work harder, or that they are working too hard. And I can do all that without judging them as people. I think a lot of us would say the same.
But then turn the tables. Can you do all of this with yourself? I can’t! I will admit that it is easier for me to support others than support myself. It’s easier to accept others flaws than my own. I seek a level of perfection that I do not require of others (and some would say that I require a high level of perfection of those around me). When it comes to me, I am so much harder on myself than I am on others. What the heck is up with that?
Why do we feel that negativity towards ourselves is productive?
Let’s take the athletes flaw of compulsion as an example. Do you know someone who has to get the workout done at all costs? If it’s on the training plan, they are going to make it happen. If they are coughing, or their calf hurts, it doesn’t matter, it’s on the plan. And when they are in this mode, thinking about whether it’s a good or bad decision for their health is put on hold. This comes from negative thought patterns and avoidance of what they perceive as failure.
“If I don’t check every box I have failed”
“If I take a day off I will lose my fitness”
“I missed yesterday, so I have to make it up today”
Sometimes athletes in this mode are waiting for coaches to pull in the reigns. But coaches are not around 24/7, they expect humans to be smart like humans. I EXPECT my athletes to seek health. They hear me preach it day in and day out. Coaches who don’t expect this essentially are treating you like dogs or horses and those are the coaches you see living with their athletes, controlling their every move. If you see sport as a metaphor for life, a vessel to learn how to live a happier more fulfilled life, then you need to act like a human and keep health in mind.
Compulsion comes from fear of failure. Almost all our our negative behaviors that take us on a detour from the path of health are based on fear of failure.
One of the best things you can do for yourself in this short life you have, is to convince yourself that FAILURE is part of a HEALTHY life.
However….lets explore this a little more…
I once heard that our brains are inherently negative. We spent literally thousands of years trying to stay alive in a world where there were many daily threats. When we heard a stick break in the forrest, we could either think “Oh someone wants to play,” OR “something is going to kill me.” The negative thinkers were most likely the ones having babies down the line. The negative brain remains today as a way to protect us. It uses the experiences of our lives to prevent us from making future mistakes, preventing future pain, hardship, and or death. Thus it develops triggers, on purpose, to steer us away from perceived future pain/death.
In todays world, the negative brain is just not as functional as it once was. Actually, it’s functional in one area, but not in another. Our level of physical safety is at an all time high, sure, we use the negative brain on occasion but honestly, it’s rare. Most of our current triggers are about avoiding future emotional pain. They are keeping us not from death, but from failure. (See above: failure is part of health)
I think an important part of self acceptance is understanding that our negative brain exists to try to keep us safe and that it’s each individuals journey in life to determine whether it does just that. I personally have found that while my negative self keeps me physically safe, it also limits my potential. Have you seen the new kids movie The Croods? The entire movie is about this concept and it’s literally one of my favorite movies of all times. Plus there is a sloth named Belt, so the movie has to be awesome!
Have you ever heard of the concept of hunger and nutrient density? When I was learning to eat healthy, and I forget where it came from, but this concept was presented to me that if you don’t eat a variety of nutrients you will continue to be hungry. The body seeks certain nutrients and until it gets them, it will continue to want to eat to find them, especially if it is deficient.
Well, listening and being compassionate towards your negative self is like that. If you continue to try to shut down your negative brain without hearing it and acknowledging its warnings, then it keeps repeating, it’s not satiated. But when you recognize that these voices are simply trying to protect, then the need within is met and you can take heed and move on. The trigger has served its purpose.
If you can listen to your negative self, if you can understand that it’s merely a warning, and not a roadmap, if you can be aware enough to recognize that it fears failure and that failure is okay, then guess what??
Here comes my fairy moment….
That my friends IS the definition of SELF ACCEPTANCE.
I went ahead and made it bold for you, go ahead and reread it.
And on that note, the path to inner peace and joy is exactly that, it’s a path. It’s not a destination (nor do you want it to be, because I’m pretty sure it’s 6 feet under ground).