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(Even the Shadows)

Maybe hate is a strong word, but you get the gist.

Who among us doesn’t believe that with a little tweaking, we could be just right—self-realized, self-actualized and self-helped to just short of perfection? But, the problem for many is that all the books, self-improvement tips and positive affirmations don’t seem to make us any happier. Worst of all, the minute we “fix” one ugly piece of ourselves, another nasty monster rears it head and starts screaming for attention.

“Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,” writes Tara Brach, in her book, Radical Acceptance. “The more we anxiously tell ourselves stories about how we might fail or what is wrong with us or with others, the more we deepen the grooves—the neural pathways—that generate feelings of deficiency.” She lists common ways people try to manage this pain of inadequacy:

•  Withdrawing from our experience of the present moment.

•  Becoming our own worst critics.

•  Anxiously embarking on one self-improvement project after another.

Accepting ourselves does not mean self-indulgence or being passive. Rather it means turning off the shameful, negative, self-loathing tapes within ourselves and just relaxing. The blaring voices of our culture certainly don’t help, with promises that buying, owning,  achieving something will make us better people; that success is measured by looks, wealth or possessions.

Sometimes it is our so-called faults that can actually lead us to a healthier life. In the New York Times best selling book “The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self” (Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, Marianne Williamson) , Debbie Ford says “In trying to express only those aspects of ourselves that we believe will guarantee us the acceptance of others, we suppress some of our most valuable features and sentence ourselves to a life of reenacting the same drama with the same outworn script.”

Seligman lists some characteristics that are easier to change, such as everyday anxiety, specific phobias, panic, anger and certain beliefs about life. He advises people to discard the notion of changing that which hurts the most (for example, your extra weight) and instead concentrating on those parts of yourself that will respond most successfully to your efforts to change them (for example, your shyness or impatience with your spouse). In the end, all the energy we put out to change ourselves may just take us back to where we started—to ourselves. And if we can truly accept ourselves as we are, that’s the best place to be.

Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated. If you’re still feeling insecure, and need to be supported as you confront your shadow sides, email me for a free 30 minute consultation.