I’ve been watching several interviews with Sounds True’s The Self Acceptance Project.
One of the guests, Karla McLaren, mentions how people who are highly empathic often have difficulty prioritizing themselves and may even have challenges in knowing what they want.
It’s an issue she sees in many women, and some men. Those of us who have no problem putting others first can find ourselves lost in the needs of everyone but ourselves. We may have learned from early conditioning that our own needs were not important or came at the expense of being punished or criticized.
Lacking self-acceptance often has its origins in our upbringing but it can also be reinforced through our culture and present relationships in our adult lives. Those of us who have had instances of harsh punishment, violence, shaming, criticizing, or other invalidation of ourselves in our lives know the effort it takes to love ourselves unconditionally. It often isn’t so simple as saying positive affirmations.
In my childhood home, my parents often used physical or psychological punishments meant to bring fear and isolation and a diminished sense of self. I came to know that they were acting from their own wounded selves.
Part of our growth as adults is learning to accept and love those parts of ourselves that feel insecure, afraid, or unsure. Too often we can lose our sense of self in accommodating others. If our sense of who we are was compromised by trauma, there may even be physiological, automatic responses that make it even more difficult to speak our truth or assert ourselves.
Having recently worked with a shamanic psychologist, I began to better understand how physical responses in the body can be triggered as well as how our bodies are messengers of needed emotional release.
For instance, the body may tremble or shake in response to emotions releasing from emotions that have been suppressed due to a traumatic event. Listening to the inner messages of your body can let you know that some part of yourself needs a voice and to be listened to with love and compassion. Our inner child, the part of us that felt afraid and unsafe during a painful event, may have gone unnoticed for years as a self-protective way to avoid being hurt again.
In my own healing, I have seen that self-acceptance is a journey that includes listening to my emotions and my body. Sometimes our conscious minds may not even remember the cause of our emotional pain, but our bodies do. Taking the time to hear the inner messages of our body and our emotions is healing.
While this is a bigger topic than the space of this blog, here are some tips I’ve learned to become more attuned to my body and emotions.
Listening to our Feelings
- Let your feelings arise and allow yourself to feel them.
- Breathe through the challenge of expressing painful emotions. The body may also shake or tremble as the energy of suppressed emotions are being released.
3. Be loving and gentle with yourself. If you find it helpful, pray and ask for divine assistance. Feel the emotion of love in your heart and let love permeate your entire body. Openly receive love and give it to yourself.
4. Notice your thoughts. Remind yourself that you are healing and that you are now safe. Let your inner child know that you are here for her/him and that you will listen to, acknowledge, and love the part of you that is hurting or in need of attention. Give love to the part of you that was abused, neglected, or otherwise hurt.
5. Feel a connection to the love of Divine Source and the love you have for others. Allow yourself to receive the same love you give to others.
6. Ground yourself. Activities such as exercise, nature, music, or talking to a trusted person can help.
9. Notice the difference after listening deeply to yourself and how you feel now. Even if you feel tired or drained after an emotional release, your emotions often calm from being given awareness and attention.
10. Self-acceptance takes courage, compassion, and consistency. There may be many more times you find that you need to love rather than criticize or reject yourself. We all have parts of ourselves that we have learned to reject. It can take a while to learn a new habit.
Now we are learning to embrace these parts of ourselves with love and understanding. You are building your inner strength and self-love. Much like exercise, consistent attention to our inner selves with love and compassion builds our spiritual strength and feelings of hope and inner peace.
Always consider the help of a counselor, therapist, or other helping professional if you feel the need. As many of the Sounds True guests mentioned, we are conditioned for connection. It takes courage to ask another to help us and to be open to reveal our hearts.
I’ve found that by allowing myself to be vulnerable and open with the therapists and healers I’ve worked with over the years, I have learned far greater self-acceptance and self-compassion than if I had attempted to cope with challenges myself.