Updated: Apr 15, 2021
“At a basic level, it goes like this: I feel something unpleasant (not enough-ness), I would rather feel something else thank you very much (enough) so I attempt to change my thoughts and perspectives to bring about a new state of being which I find more pleasant. I am trying to escape from suffering. In our age of self-improvement and ‘life-hacking’, the shadow side of this avoidance can be hard to see. But my hunch is this: I am expending a lot of energy fighting against my state of being and this is creating an inner tension. As Tara Brach would put it, I am giving myself a double arrow. Not only do I not feel enough, but I tell myself it is wrong to feel this way.” - Sarah Taylor, PhD
Many of us speak and act in a way to validate our self-worth. We act as is we are not enough. When we come from being not enough, we are a parasite with others; we need their power, knowledge, energy, approval, etc., for our growth. When we accept ourselves just the way we are, we can support others to grow at the same time we grow. We can give back to the earth, to our community, to society as a whole. We can be open to other’s teachings and feedback without being defensive.
I can see that if I accepted myself, what people think of me wouldn’t matter. I could see other people, things and circumstances as enough also. I wouldn’t need to take yet another course to be better, but only for the sake of learning and growing. I could listen to what others have to say because I wouldn’t need approval by speaking about my life all the time. I wouldn’t have to get everything perfect. I would stop beating myself up. I would naturally attract more of what I want into my life because my focus would be on the abundance I already have. I wouldn’t over eat or eat fast because I could see that there is and will always be plenty. I could just be present to the fullness and richness of my life.
If only I had this, looked like this, experienced this, felt like this…then I would feel like I am enough, happy and fulfilled. We are aiming for something that we can never reach, brought to you by those who either profit from you feeling insecure about yourself trying to sell us something or our parents and peer group who may be projecting their own belief onto us unconsciously because they don’t feel enough, and were taught the same thing. Something happens, is said or projected onto a child. The child believes it and takes it on as their own belief/story. Children are naturally held to certain standards and when these standards are not met and there is a strong reaction by the caregiver, the child may interpret it as love being withdrawn; another way of beginning a journey of not enough.
As a healing practitioner, sometimes we try fix people so we can gain validation and feel significant. What is the supposition that a person needs fixing? They are not enough just the way they are and I may know better than them what they need. When we are offered unsolicited advice and fixing and are not listened to, it triggers the core belief that “I am not enough” and we become defensive and closed.
“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.” - Parker Palmer
Just listen and reflect; people are dying to be heard. When people experience being listened to, they may seek your advice, trust you and feel safe. When you are present and receptive, you affirm to another that they are enough.
NINE STEPS TO SELF-ACCEPTANCE
1. When you catch yourself in the “not enough” trap, ask yourself the following questions:
Is this really true?
Compared to whom?
Compared to what?
How am I benefitting right now from this belief?
What needs am I meeting?
Not good enough for what? What is the evidence that it’s true?
2. Eliminate “Enough” from your vocabulary.
Realize the vagueness and absurdity of the word “enough”. Redefine “enough” to self-acceptance.
Instead of trying to be enough, how about accepting ourselves just the way we are?
3. Practice gratitude every day.
Have a gratitude journal and write what you are grateful for one or more times a day. Keep your focus on the richness of your life and how you are making a difference each day.
4. Don't believe everything you think.
Thoughts are not one of the things that are in most people’s control and it's futile to give so much power to the negative ones.
5. The people you compare yourself to compare themselves to other people too.
We all compare ourselves to other people. The people who seem to have it all usually don’t. When you look at other people through a lens of compassion and understanding rather than judgment and jealousy, you are better able to see them for what they are. They are beautifully imperfect human beings going through the same universal challenges that we all go through. Practice offering love and compassion to those you have the greatest judgment and jealousy with. One of the best ways to do this is by practicing loving-kindness meditation.
6. Practice receiving love and support.
Accept support, praise and love from others more often, even when you feel you don’t deserve it. I find that it is most difficult to accept love and understanding from others when I'm in a state of anger, shame, anxiety, or depression.
7. Forgive Yourself.
Life is a journey in forgiveness.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” - Buddha
8. Focus on progress rather than perfection.
One of the biggest causes of self-loathing is the need to “get it right.” We strive for perfection and success, and when we fall short, we feel less than and worthless. What we don't seem to realize is that working toward our goals and being willing to put ourselves out there are accomplishments within themselves, regardless of how many times we fail.
Instead of berating yourself for messing up and stumbling backward, give yourself a pat on the back for trying, making progress, and coming as far as you have.
9. You can't hate your way into loving yourself.
Telling yourself what a failure you are won't make you any more successful. Telling yourself you're not living up to your full potential won't help you reach a higher potential. Telling yourself you're worthless and unlovable won't make you feel any more worthy or lovable. I know it sounds almost annoyingly simple, but the only way to achieve self-love is to love your self.
© Michael Aaron 2020