While coronavirus has killed, toppled, and impaired so many, there’s a far more mammoth plague that has disturbed our planet. The lack of self-love, self-care, and self-acceptance is linked to many physical and emotional conditions and infirmities, far too many to catalogue here. Self-acceptance could well be, heck it is, the starting place for all healing, particularly during the emotional trauma and anxiety triggered by COVID19.
Self-acceptance begins right where your feet are. Not your head. Your mind is often in the land of “going to” horror predictions or grieving over “what used to be and no longer is.” Your feet are in your now. To mend your life, to restore your wellbeing, to rebuild your emotional strength, we would wisely look at where our feet are and begin with unconditionally accepting ourselves in the moment. Unconditional self-acceptance (USA), is the foundation upon which we healthily initiate any and every self-betterment aspiration, ambition and aim. Albert Ellis, Ph.D., said, “self-acceptance is a rational belief that liberates people to grow. By eliminating the rating of self as much as possible, people can greatly reduce their anxiety and feelings of inadequacy and as a result feel free to make mistakes and risk rejection from others, in their quest for discovering what they truly enjoy doing.”
USA is not resignation, “Oh well, this is the way I am, and I better just accept it.” No, that’s submission and acquiescence. Unconditional self-acceptance acknowledges and accepts who we are without rating ourselves globally. We all have undesirable traits, fallibilities, and habits. But we are not those traits and habits. We are separate from our actions, from our human failings, our qualities. These do not define us.
When we rate our performances, our skills, our behaviors but not ourselves, we can move forward free of self-hatred, shame, anxiety, depression, fear or anger. When we eliminate judging ourselves while remaining fallible, always worthwhile, human beings, we are free to tackle repellant circumstances like coronavirus and all of attendant unkind restrictions. When we practice self-love, self-care, self-acceptance, when we recognize who we really are, we can be free to work on improving those traits that are less than desirable. It makes no sense is to use your performances, or other’s opinions of you, as a basis for globally rating yourself.
Now for an experiment. Go to the closest mirror and take a look at the work-in-progress person looking back at you. Of course, that’s you. Without evaluating your looks, your hair, your wrinkles, your makeup, your size, your deeds, simply see – without rating you. It may take time, practice, but once you experience that freedom, you’re on the path to a new, better you, one in which you disturb yourself less and live happier.
I’m reminded of a well-known story linked to Thomas Edison that makes this point crystal clear. When he was in elementary school, the tale goes, he returned home from school one day with a letter from his teacher. The letter was addressed to his mother. “Your son is addled [mentally ill]. We will not allow him to attend our institution any longer,” it read.
She broke down and cried as she read the letter to herself. But with her mother’s healthy instinct, she did not believe what she read, and naturally decided not to give up. When young Thomas asked her what the letter said, the tale goes, she said, “Dear Mrs. Edison, your son Thomas is a genius. We cannot possibly teach a youngster with such talent since we do not have the resources someone with his intelligence deserves. It would be best if he were home schooled.” Edison’s mother prepared an excellent homeschooling routine for her son, and Edison left his school behind without a second thought, other than believing what his mother read to him.
When Edison’s mother passed away, many years later, Thomas Edison began sifting through old family records and belongings one day and came across a letter buried deep in his mother’s old closet. It was the letter from his elementary school that Edison’s mother received many years before. Thomas read the letter. He cried and cried, realizing that his mother’s complete unconditional acceptance of him, taught him a remarkable lesson.
He wrote in his diary: “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child, that, thanks to the heroism of his mother, became the genius of the century.” At the very end of his life, Edison famously quoted: “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had someone to live for, someone I must not disappoint.”
In her blockbuster bestseller, “You Can Heal Yourself,” Louise L. Hays, notes, “When a little child is learning to walk or talk, we encourage him and praise him for every tiny improvement he makes. The child beams and eagerly tries to do better. Is this the way you encourage yourself when you are learning something new? Or do you make it harder to learn because you tell yourself that you are ‘stupid’ or ‘clumsy’ or a ‘failure’?”
Albert Ellis, Ph.D. similarly observed, “You have considerable power to construct self-helping thoughts, feelings and actions as well as to construct self-defeating behaviors. You have the ability, if you use it, to choose healthy instead of unhealthy thinking, feeling and acting.”
Sure, this pandemic is pushing us to our limits, challenging our abilities to deal with nearly everything that seemed so easy last year. USA allows us to avoid shriveling, to not see ourselves as weak, deficient, defective. Think you’re not worthwhile, telling yourself that you are a failure, that you are unable to get through this? Back to Hays, “Think thoughts that make you happy. Do things that make you feel good. Be with people who make you feel good. Eat things that make your body feel good. Go at a pace that makes you feel good.”
And I’d add, unconditionally accept yourself, regardless of the hardships and challenges COVID19 are presenting. It’s far better to enjoy yourself than to feel the irrational need to prove yourself through this, or any, time of life.