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GET REAL: ACCEPT YOURSELF
Who am I really? I haven't a clue!
Most of us don't have a clue who we are or what we really want. We have lived to please everyone else for so long that we are not often even aware that we want something different.
How did we get so far off track?
Like our children, we want to be accepted by others, to fit in, to be noticed, or recognized. Because of this desire, we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned by others to accept less in our lives, to accept untruths from others, and to generally disregard our own dreams, desires, opinions, and even the experiences that we want in our lives. No more!
One of the most detracting aspects of our self-perception and how we function in our lives is what we believe about ourselves. Our self-perceptions cause us to respond to every situation in life from that point of view. If we do not believe ourselves to be whole and perfect, then we are operating from the standpoint of imperfection, self-defense, negative self-image, and need.
When we operate from this aspect of self-perception, we show our children that they aren't perfect either. We teach them to defend themselves against the views and actions of others when, honestly, neither of these things has anything to do with them. People make choices. They have opinions. And those choices and opinions are theirs—not ours, not our kids'.
Because they are so sensitive, the Children of Now quickly gain a poor self- image. On top of that, they feel everything that we do and understand even what we don't. And by our example, we show them it is normal and acceptable to ignore our inner issues and dysfunctional behaviors that result from doing so. The children already feel different, as if they don't fit, and then, just like we learned to do, they learn to stuff away those feelings and to act as if nothing is wrong.
Because they have no coping skills to deal with their sensitivities in relation to the stark aspects of life, many of the children will become cosmically ill, as I call it. They come up with fevers, seizures, and illnesses that can't be defined by allopathic medicine, as well as erratic behaviors and emotional problems. Some of them even become self-destructive, using drugs, abusing alcohol, and even engaging in self-mutilation or, worse, attempting suicide as they get older.
How can we be better examples of healthy beings for our kids? First of all, we must learn to see ourselves as whole and perfect and stop believing that we are anything else.
Generationally speaking, most of today's adults come from backgrounds that were filled with the expectations of parents and other caregivers. In most cases, our parents and caregivers did their very best to give us what they thought we needed. They gave us the life tools that they had, but much of the time, their life toolbox was missing some very basic skills. They were heavily influenced by a generation that never questioned authority, period. The rules were followed, even when those rules were in the best interest of some, but not others. Our predecessors lived in a simple time when it occurred to very few that there could be more to life than there was.
In most of our families, we were told that we should do more, try harder, find our singular purpose in life, and be the best at it. Unfortunately, we weren't ever told what life would look like when we got there. We were given a road map with lots of traffic rules, but no destinations.
Further, we were expected to behave in certain ways, to follow the social norms of the times, and God forbid we should have expressed our real feelings. If we did, we were reprimanded or punished just for telling the truth. We were told that we weren't being good girls or boys. We weren't encouraged to talk about things that hurt us. On the contrary, we were told to be quiet, or we were ignored altogether. So we learned to bury that pain.
If someone we encountered was different somehow or didn't fit the social norm, we were taught to shun them. We were basically taught that if they weren't like us, they were weird or simply not acceptable. Judgment became prevalent in our lives.
Many of our religions taught us that we had to be subservient, that we were blemished by the sins of man, which set us against a powerful God who would strike us down if we did not obey. We were taught that we were weak beings who must strive to atone for our sins—basically that we were sinners from the word go.
This writer actually remembers as a small child having to go to confession weekly at school to report my sins to the parish priest. Confession was mandatory every Friday morning. I remember asking one of the nuns if, gee, I didn't have any sins, would I have to go to confession? She said that everyone sinned and that I absolutely must go. So I went, fearing a vengeful God. I literally had to make up sins when I went. And therefore I became the sinner that I hadn't been before. Kneeling on the stone dais, doing penance for sins I hadn't really committed, seemed like a paradox even then. I would justify the punishment because I had lied to the priest about my sins. So there I was, praying like crazy to atone for sins I would not have committed had I not been forced to participate in confessing sins I never had done. Instead of teaching me how to be honest, my religion taught me how to lie even when the situation was supposedly a blessed sacrament!
As we were subtly conditioned to "acceptable" behaviors, slowly and steadily our sense of self became confused and even buried. We learned not to show our feelings because doing so was easier than handling the conflict we might face if we did. We learned early on to defend ourselves by telling little white lies or even bigger ones to those around us.
Similarly, we learned to lie to ourselves about how things were going. After all, we wanted to believe that we were good people, achieving all that was expected of us! Over time, being dishonest with ourselves and others became a habit, and somewhere in all of those little lies we lost touch with who we really were.
In every direction of our development we were undermined. Our experience was a constant paradox. We felt damned if we did what we were told and followed the rules because we were not feeling free to be ourselves, and damned if we didn't because our behavior was considered unacceptable. Naturally, we began to look to our peers to tell us how we fit in, how we were doing, and whether or not we were right or wrong. We began to look externally for approval and validation of most everything we did or said. Some of us would have done nearly anything to feel as if we belonged or to be accepted.
But here is the kicker: everyone we asked could only answer us from their frame of reference. The set of life tools and discernment that they had wasn't exactly that full either. So it was like the blind leading the blind.
Because of this situation, many of us find ourselves floundering, lost, misdirected, and not knowing who we are or what we want. We strive to please people who developed with similar maps to ours, and the result isn't always a pretty picture. Our children see our behaviors and begin to subconsciously mimic them.
Still, we look to others to fill our perceived emptiness, to validate us, or to offer their approval. By perception, we give our power away, thinking that we never had any power anyway. We have come to see ourselves as alone in the world, separate from everyone and everything. We imagine that the experiences we have couldn't possibly be understood by anyone else. And in our separateness grows our deep and often painful sense of aloneness. From our feelings of isolation come self-defensive behaviors that cause us the very problems we want to avoid, and our situations are compounded with disappointment after disappointment.
The Truth May Hurt, but at Least It's Mine!
The only way to get real is to tell the truth, first to ourselves and then to others. As we close ourselves off, defining our experiences by how deep our pain was or how disappointed we were, wishing and hoping for the excellent experiences we have had to linger longer, we become unsure what we want. We aren't even sure we deserve it because we can't see our value, so we have this deep sense of being unfulfilled. If we don't know how to be happy, how can we teach our children to be happy?
We begin to develop a sense that we should be doing something else with our lives or that something greater is just around the corner, but we don't know how to get from here to there.
This brings me back to my original questions. Who are you really? Do you know? Do you remember? What do you want in life?
The greatest, most powerful words that anyone can ever say about their life are "I accept."
"I accept" means embracing yourself just as you are, without the perceived need to be anything but the true you and without the need to please anyone else.
If you really want things to change, accept you unconditionally. Whoever you are, whatever that looks like—just accept you as you. No strings, no pretenses, no preconceptions, no judgment. Just be willing to experience yourself undiluted by everyone else's opinions. Of course, you can't just think it and make it so. Self-acceptance is a way of life. It is about staying true to you, no matter what.
The truth is that in every given moment we have lived, we have done the best that we could. There are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn, change, grow—or not.
The first step to realizing who we are is to stop the untruths we tell ourselves as well as others. Untruths begin when, based upon our experiences and interactions with others, we are uncomfortable inside of ourselves. Our body signals to us that we are in a danger zone, and we react. Unfortunately, perhaps we haven't yet found the courage to state our truth in the moment, and we want everything to be easy with others. So we react often at our own expense.
Mentally we begin to toss things around in our brains like a washing machine on a spin cycle. The information never resolves because it is moving in a repetitive circle. Ultimately our brain will make leaps and assumptions in order to find some sort of logic in our experiences. And that logic is often far from the truth.
We don't realize that mentality or cyclic thinking will never, ever, lead us to truth. Mental resolution is only an illusion to satisfy the ego.
We tell ourselves any number of untruths. We might tell ourselves that even though someone else isn't treating us right, they don't mean it. We might tell ourselves that we are loved and wanted by someone who doesn't give us the first indication that is so. We might tell ourselves that we communicate brilliantly with our kids when we really don't understand what they need or how they feel at all. We might tell ourselves that our significant other would never fool around on us when, in fact, there is blatant evidence that they would (or are). We might tell ourselves that we are doing a good job when, in fact, we are slacking off because we really hate our job. We might tell ourselves that we are great parents when we barely spend any time at all with our children. We might tell ourselves that we will spend all weekend with our children while knowing deep down that finishing our project at work is our priority. We might tell ourselves most anything if it makes things seem to fit our lives or makes us more comfortable with our experiences. And ultimately we begin to feel unsettled, unhappy, and even sick.
With each self-deception, we fall farther and farther away from knowing who we are.
If we are to know what we want, even what we need, we must be able to recognize those wants and needs.
It is time to stop pretending that everything is just fine. It is time to let go of the illusion that we are something that we are not, and to find out just who is hiding behind all of the distractions that our lies have created. When we are in truth with ourselves, our children learn how to be in truth with themselves as well.
If what we feel inside is equal to what we feel on the outside, then we are in good shape, balanced, and honest with ourselves. When we are not being honest with ourselves, our body begins to give us signals. One of the first things that happens is that we hold our breath. We get tension in our chest, shoulders, or neck, or we get that lurching feeling inside our chest, as if a herd of elephants just stampeded across our equilibrium. Mood shifts can be another sign that we are not really comfortable with what is going on.
When our bodies signal us that we are out of truth, we need to start paying attention. Stop. Right then. Take a step back, and ask yourself to what is your body reacting. Catch it in the now. What was your last thought? What was it about? Was it really the truth, or did you just tell yourself that so that you would feel better? Listen. What do you hear? What do you hear inside of you? What is your body saying to you? Find the untruth and tell yourself the real truth, even if it means that things are not going to be the same anymore. Let's face it; if life were that good, you sure wouldn't be feeling discomfort!
Bonus Exercise: Learning to Accept You
Let's take just a few minutes to make a point here. Close your eyes and think about how perfect you are. Uh oh. Do you see how your objections start right away? You might be thinking, "I am not pretty. I am not strong. I am not smart enough. I ..." Well, you get the point.
So let's start again. Close your eyes. Direct your attention into the center of your chest, to that place where you feel love at its fullest. That feeling, that love, is the truth of who you are, no matter what is happening or how you see things. So let's start here. As you direct your attention into the very core of your heart, breathe in, slowly and intentionally.
As you breathe in, say to yourself something like "I accept my perfection. Whoever I am, whatever that looks like, I accept." Now breathe out, knowing that all negative thoughts are leaving you with your breath as you exhale.
Bonus Exercise with Your Child
It doesn't matter how young or old your child is. This exercise works for all ages.
Sit on the floor across from your child. Look each other in the eyes for a few minutes. No giggling or talking. Just look into each other's eyes. Put your hands on each other's hearts, and as you do, tell each other that you love each other no matter what. Tell your child that you know without a doubt that they are perfect. Mean it. Take a moment to really see your child. Let your child see you without your defenses. Remember to breathe easily. When you feel like you are really connected, say a simple "I love you" to each other and see where it goes from there.
It's Time to Live Out Loud!
The Children of Now know truth, and they know when we aren't telling it. They can read us like an open book. Learning to tell the truth can be tough because we feel exposed, unsafe, when we do. The best way to go about recognizing your truth is to recognize one truth at a time. First of all, listen to your body. Find the deceptions inside of you. Change those untruths to real truths by getting honest with yourself. If someone is treating you badly, but you have made excuses for them time and again, why not admit that person doesn't show you respect? Even further, perhaps acknowledge that their treatment is abusive. Is that what you want?
If you have noticed certain behaviors in someone close to you, but you haven't asked that person about him- or herself because you don't really want to know the truth, or you have convinced yourself that you can't possibly be right, address this with yourself. Ask yourself what you are avoiding. What would the truth mean to you in this situation? What would the truth mean really? We tend to apply uncomfortable truths to ourselves in negative ways by feeling as if these truths were our fault somehow. Look beyond the reflexive reaction of somehow having been wrong and see the real dynamics. You may be surprised!
Excerpted from Parenting the Children of Now by Meg Blackburn Losey. Copyright © 2009 Meg Blackburn Losey, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Chapter 1: Get Real: Accept Yourself
Chapter 2: Understand Your Purpose
Chapter 3: Stop Being Afraid
Chapter 4: Recognize Your Patterns
Chapter 5: Remember Your Passion
Chapter 6: Question Everything
Chapter 7: Be Authentic
Chapter 8: Have a Sense of Humor
Chapter 9: See That Change Is Magnificent
Chapter 10: Trust That Your Relationships Have Purpose
Chapter 11: Carry Your Own Baggage
Chapter 12: Dump Your Parent Issues
Chapter 13: Have It All
Chapter 14: Embrace Your Gifts
Chapter 15: Whose Children Are They, Anyway?
Chapter 16: The Art of Parenting as a Well-Balanced, Whole and Perfect,
Magnificent Human Being