Last blog I focused on how we can practice acceptance of others, even when (or maybe especially when) there are parts of that person that we hope would be different or change. This week I want to take that same idea and turn it inwards. How are you engaging with yourself on a regular basis and, maybe more importantly, during times when your imperfections or shortcomings seem to be front and center?
I wrote in a past blog about the inner self and the development of inner voices. Most of us have an inner critic and an inner nurturer. One of these may be louder or more developed than the other, but we have often experienced each one at least once.
Bring to mind a time in which you were aware of a mistake or a shortcoming or an imperfection of yours. When these moments arise, we have a choice to approach it from the perspective of our inner critic or our inner nurturer. Your inner critic may respond to your imperfection with judgmental statements or criticism. These statements might be global (“You’re always messing up. You’ll never amount to anything.”) and be character attacking. On the other hand, your inner nurturer may respond to this same moment of imperfection from a place of kindness and compassion. This is not a place of denial or of dismissal; this voice does not tell you that the mistake or imperfection is not present- it acknowledges it with care.
Realistically, which approach is likely to foster change? What feelings do you notice rising within you in response to the critical voice and the nurturing voice? Do criticism and judgment actually inspire you to make changes, or do they leave you feeling defeated and convinced of your inability to grow? Kindness and compassion are much more likely to help you make meaningful change; kindness and compassion present an opportunity to accept ourselves while also recognizing specific areas in which we may be falling short.
How to Practice Greater Acceptance
1. Observe the mistake, shortcoming, imperfection. Notice what it is or how it unfolded, and how that experience left you feeling.
2. Identify whether your inner critic or inner nurturer is the primary voice. If your inner critic has taken center stage, make the conscious choice to speak to yourself from the perspective of the inner nurturer. For some, it is helpful to imagine what you might say to a loved one who has the same imperfection or who has made the same mistake (we can often be our harshest critic).
3. Make a plan. Take note of what you might do differently or what you might work on to foster growth and change. You cannot change what has already occurred- however, you can take control of your response to the situation and how you choose to move forward from it.
To learn more or to book an appointment, contact me via telephone or email.
Brenna Burke, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Santa Clarita, CA. She provides individual psychotherapy and couples counseling. Information provided through this website is for informational purposes only. It does not create a therapist-client relationship and does not replace clinical assessment or professional consultation.