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Self-Acceptance

Not accepting ourselves can lead to missed expectations and, eventually, towards burnout.

Will you pass gas in front of your friends and loved ones?  For some the answer is a squeamish no, for others the question is met with a shrug and a timid “sure”, and occasionally you’ll get an enthusiastic “yes!”  The question may seem odd or innocuous, but it may indicate something larger.  It may be a pointer to whether you accept yourself – all of yourself – or not.  There are certain social norms that we’re not supposed to violate, but we know that we all do.  No one wants to admit their farts stink – but everyone’s has some stench.

Somewhere in the shrug is the acknowledgement that not everything about a person can be bright and rosy.  Every person has good and bad in them.  It’s easy to say that everyone has things that they don’t like about themselves.  It’s much harder to say this is a part of me that I don’t like about myself.  It might be a lack of exercise, lack of motivation, a feeling of shyness in certain situations or one of a few hundred other things that most of us struggle with from time to time.

A lack – or, rather, a low level – of self-acceptance leads to burnout because of our missed expectations.  We expect perfection, because we believe we see it in others.  Though celebrities are in the news with their drug and legal problems, there are many celebrities who aren’t in this category.  We see only their new, multi-million-dollar contracts and wonder what it takes to get one of our own.  We see our friends through Facebook having great vacations, promotions at work, and children who are off saving the rainforests or becoming the youngest CEO to ever reforest an entire country.  Whatever metric we use, we can find someone doing it better – and therefore there’s a part of us that doesn’t measure up to the unrealistically high standard.

Sometimes our level of self-acceptance is lower than that.  Sometimes we treat ourselves with a degree of self-loathing that we would never allow anyone else to say to a friend in our presence.  We believe that other humans are worthy of respect and decency but not us.  Somehow there’s some aspect of us that invalidates our right to be included with the rest of humanity.  The truth is there’s nothing that we can do to separate us from our humanity.  No matter what we’ve been told or even what we’ve done, we remain human and deserve the same level of care, grace, and acceptance that we would afford to a stranger.

By quieting the negative voices of self-loathing and moving towards more self-accepting self-talk, we create a greater opportunity to resist the pit of burnout.  We may feel sucked in by circumstances or feeling like we’re not meeting the expectations we have for ourselves, but if we can approach ourselves with self-acceptance, we can float over these depressing times and arrive at the other side fully intact.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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