Manager's Tips and Tools

by Manager Development Services

Self-esteem Series (3 of 13) #2 Awareness and Acceptance of Oneself

No Matter Where You Go – There You Are

Who’s going to hold your hand when you’re all alone?  How about you?

You are the only person who is going to put your head on your pillow every night of your life.  Others will come and go, but you are the only one who is going to be there twenty-four-seven.  You better get to like yourself.  You better learn to love yourself.  When you look in the mirror, who do you see?  You better see your best friend.  This is the one person who will never desert you – through thick and thin, triumph and defeat, love and tragedy.

Self-acceptance is to be on your own side – to be there for yourself.  Self-acceptance means to make the choice to value yourself, to treat yourself with respect, and to stand up for your right to exist.

Living in self-acceptance means you are willing to experience, without denial or evasion, that your thoughts, feelings, desires, and actions are real – and a part of you.  To recognize and accept you have done what you have done, and are what you are.

“This is me, warts and all, and I accept me.”

Self-acceptance also entails the idea of compassion, of being a friend to yourself.  Most people would have compassion for an injured dog at the side of the highway.  How about a little compassion for yourself?  It’s often a hell of a lot easier to have compassion for somebody else – but not me!  I don’t deserve it!  Don’t you know, I’m supposed to be perfect.

Well, wake up!  I hate to tell you, but you’re not God.  Get off the cross; we need the wood.  Deal with it, get over it, and move on – begin to live – you deserve it.

Most of us come into adulthood emotionally wounded – spiritually crippled – full of guilt, shame, and remorse.  Many of us act as though we don’t believe we have the right to occupy one square-foot space in this infinite universe.  We’ve crossed over – violated – our values and beliefs.  Maybe at some time we lied or cheated or hurt someone we love.  Well, that means we’re human.  Does this mean it’s all right to do those things?  No, it doesn’t.  But beating yourself up compounds the wrong – it doesn’t fix it.  Because we’ve betrayed our morals – our sense of right and wrong, we believe we are not worthy of happiness – we do not deserve good things for ourselves.  We deserve to be punished and if you’re not going to punish me, I’ll punish me.  We become filled with disgust and shame for whom and what we are.

What is shame exactly?

Well, basically, there is healthy shame and there is toxic shame.

Healthy shame lets us know that we are not God.  Healthy shame lets us know when we have crossed over and violated our values, our morals, what we believe to be right and good. Healthy shame tells us we have made a mistake and makes us feel bad.  It alerts and motivates us so that we can fix it – make it right.

Toxic shame, on the other hand, doesn’t tell us we made a mistake – it tells us we are a mistake.  It is “rejection of self” which is at the core of toxic shame.  It doesn’t tell us that we did something bad – it tells us that we are bad.   And once we believe that we are a mistake – that we are bad – we can’t fix it – we can’t make it right.  No matter what we do or how much we repay we are still and always will be a mistake – we are still and always will be bad.

Where does toxic shame come from?  How does it develop?  It is usually passed down to us as children from our caregivers – our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, anyone in authority over us whom we look up to.  Sometimes it comes from outright abuse from people who are ignorant or sick themselves (“What the hell’s the matter with you?  Did your mother have any kids that lived?  Don’t you have a brain in that thick skull of yours?  You’re stupid.  You’re fat.  You’re ugly.  You’ll never amount to anything!”)

But sometimes, it isn’t intended to be abusive.  Sometimes it even comes from good intentions.  What is important – is how it is interpreted.  Historically, parents try to motivate their children by criticism.  The belief is that a child is too immature – too inexperienced to recognize his own flaws so it is the caregiver’s job to point them out.  The idea is that the child will learn to recognize his flaws and correct them.

But unfortunately, I can give you fifty compliments and only one criticism and it is only the criticism that you will remember and identify with.  Children take in information from their caregivers and draw conclusions from that information (i.e.: I’m fat.  I’m lazy.  I’m stupid.  I’ll never amount to anything.).  From these conclusions, they look for more evidence to support the conclusion.  The conclusions and supportive evidence then fosters self-talk (by the time a person is twenty years old, he will have thirty-five thousand hours of self-talk tape running through his head –I’m fat, lazy, stupid, incompetent, etc.  Eighty percent of this self-talk is negative.).  No one beats us up the way we beat ourselves up.  We would outrage if someone else treated us the way we treated us.

Our self-talk then keeps us on the lookout for more information to support this developing belief and we become adept at filtering out any information which contradicts our self-talk.  In other words, we take in information from which we draw conclusions from which we search for evidence from which we develop self-talk from which we filter information to support our conclusions and so on and so on until we develop a false belief.

Since the “rejection of self” is at the core of toxic shame, we must recognize these false beliefs and change them.  But changing a belief is difficult to say the least.  A belief is something we absolutely know to be true – it’s just the way things are.  What if I were to tell you the sky is yellow?  It is yellow today and has always been yellow?

“No!  Wait a minute!  The sky is blue!  It has always been blue!”

What if I and countless others give you overwhelming and irrefutable evidence that proves the sky is and always has been yellow?  Imagine how difficult it would be to accept this simple tangible fact.  Imagine how hard it would be to wrap your brain around such a contrary belief.

Everyone suffers from false beliefs which are far more contrary – far more complicated – and far more ingrained in us than just the color of the sky.

NOTE: Manager Development Services’ Blog is intended to educate and give “food for thought” that will enhance a person’s personal and professional lives.  You can find our Self-esteem Series in either our text or our e-learning course titled, “Becoming Master of Your Destiny.”

– excerpt from “Becoming Master of Your Destiny”


July 10, 2011 - Posted by | Counseling Techniques, Employee Coaching, Leadership Skills, Manager Development Tools, Mentoring | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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