I’ve been doing some self-reflection lately about what is important to me about this work, and I keep coming back to the idea of acceptance. This is so important to me that I have a mission statement with the sentence: “Everyone deserves acceptance.”
One of the pioneers of this field, Carl Rogers, posited the idea of unconditional positive regard– that is, that the therapist responds to the client with complete, loving acceptance. And yet, most people come into therapy wanting to change something about the way they behave, feel, or think. In Rogers’ thinking (and mine!) change and full acceptance are not incompatible- in fact, acceptance is a necessary ingredient for change. It’s my hope that in experiencing positive regard from me, you’ll gradually be able to cultivate self-acceptance.
Many people believe they need to be harshly self-critical in order to change. My clinical experience leads me to disagree. Shame and self-criticism sometimes feel productive, but very little lasting change comes from shame. Most of us have had one or more habits in our lives that we try to self-berate ourselves out of doing and that white-knuckle, miserable approach may work temporarily but rarely lasts.
Self-acceptance does not mean you are okay with everything about yourself and have no desire to change. Not at all. In fact, accepting yourself means embracing all the things you don’t like about yourself and the reasons they exist.
Let’s say you hate the way you snap at your partner after a long day. After you snap, you feel guilty and awful, because you want to be a better partner than that. Self-acceptance doesn’t mean you just drop the guilt and say shitty things left and right. It does mean that you acknowledge that you’re less loving when tired or cranky or dehydrated or off-center. It means you appreciate that you’d like to be better. It means you make a realistic plan for how to be better and what to do when it happens anyway.
So the next time you snap at your partner, you take a deep breath. You acknowledge that you had some feelings that were not well-cared-for. You sit with the disappointment. You may apologize to your partner, able to sit with their frustration or hurt as well.
In short- self-acceptance broadens your capacity. You can do so much more from a place of ease and self-love than from shame.
Doesn’t that sound amazing? Let’s work together to create a field of acceptance and growth- book a free intro call with me today.