I blame my first padded bra.
It was the beginning of too many years spent feeling dis-empowered, pouring relentless energy into hiding my perceived inadequacies in a failed effort to feel secure and loved. I learned at 12 years young that it was easier to fake a rack than to feel the pain of being flat-chested among a sea of girls with real boobs. I call this my “padded bra syndrome” (PBS). I know all too well the symptoms of PBS. PBS is not just about body image. But for most of us, it starts there… and becomes pervasive. A pervasive voice that tells us that we aren’t enough; that tells us that we are broken and need to be fixed.
The thing is though, the more energy we put into self-judgment and criticism, the more power we give it. And ultimately we rob ourselves from the gift of knowing ourselves (and loving ourselves) as we are. Self-improvement is NOT a replacement for self-acceptance. Fixing the outside does not solve our inner stuff. Remember…We are not broken; We don’t need to be fixed. We need to be LOVED.
It isn’t that self-improvement, or as I prefer to say, self-enhancement, is unhealthy. It’s not. But for self-improvement to be sustainable, we first need to meet ourselves where we are and madly love ourselves there. Self-improvement suggest that we are in lack and when we come from lack, we don’t grow. Sun shining on dry soil just makes dryer soil.
Self-acceptance tells us we are whole, we are good, we are important. And therefore, we are worthy of being enhanced. Self-acceptance is the water for our soil.
Only when we are watered, can we then give ourselves permission to become something more, for the long term. Only then do self-improvement behaviors stand a chance. I’ve never met anyone who successfully hated there way into greatness. We rise up into our highest selves not from degradation and punishment, but from its opposite… compassion and encouragement.
So how do you do it? How do you love your way in to greatness? How do you accept what you think you can’t stand? The recipe for self-acceptance is a little different for all of us, but I can share a few things that have helped me along my journey:
1. I count my blessings, not my blemishes.
2. I speak to myself the way I would speak to a child… lovingly.
3. I offer gratitude for the amazing things I am capable of… every damn day.
4. I accept others as they are.
5. I choose a tribe of kind people… I try to see myself as they see me.
6. I visualize myself as my highest self and then I act accordingly. My highest self would never shame me.
7. I meditate to help me stay present. I add “for now” to the end of many sentences.
8. I use affirmations. I’m an affirmation junkie. They work.
9. I devote more energy into sharing honestly who I am than I do into changing who I am.
10. I recognize that self-acceptance and self-love is a moment-to-moment practice. I practice it and when I slip up, with forgiveness and self-compassion, I start again.
This soul work is important. Self-acceptance is the key to unlocking self-esteem. We can’t have high self-worth if we can’t be OK with who we are. And our self-worth significantly impacts our potential for joy. When we spend our lives in resistance to the magnificence that we are, judging and bullying ourselves, we don’t create much space to let love in. It’s a choice. We either advertise to the world that we are not enough or we advertise that we are. Which one would you buy? But then again, a self-accepting soul doesn’t care… because she has already bought into herself, wholeheartedly.