Self Acceptance

I’m a member of BlogHer’s Live Well panel and this past week I was asked to respond to the questions:

“How do you practice self-acceptance and find unconditional love for yourself? How does practicing love first help you attract more love and happiness in your life?”

Up until a few months ago I would have scratched my head and not known how to respond. As I think about it, I’d not really considered the idea of self-love until after my divorce. After that I noticed the concept coming up more – from friends, from advisers, from my blog guests and most recently from my Fit4Love dating coach, Sheila Paxton.

As Sheila and I talked about the assignment reviewing positive and negative characteristics from my previous relationships, I came to realized that I was blaming myself for my divorce. It’s true that I had initiated the divorce but what I hadn’t been able to accept that my ex played a role in that too. At the time that Sheila and I talked she gave me a daily affirmation practice aimed at unconditional self-acceptance.

I wrote the affirmations on an index card and had the card by my wash basin for weeks. It’s now pinned on my vision board so I see it every time I walk out of my bathroom. My vision board originally started out as a style board recommend in the book Nothing to Wear by Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo. Since I went through Fit4Love it’s really morphed into a bigger concept – a vision board for my life.

Several weeks later, Sheila and I were discussing my values and what values I wanted in a partner. In that moment I stopped blaming myself. It literally happened in a instant, at the end of a sentence. As I was sharing with her some of my ex’s behavior I realized it was that behavior that caused me to lose respect for him and that he was responsible for his behavior, not me. The blame I was feeling was something I was holding over myself.

That was a very significant breakthrough and with it came the release of the final elements self-anger I’d been harboring for some years.

Some of that self-anger had come from realizing that I had been downplaying my strengths, probably since I was a teenager. That was another revelation that has come from my interviews for my blog. I couldn’t change my past but I could commit to celebrating my gifts going forward. It’s easier for me to accept that the past is passed, is done and can’t be undone, when I demonstrate that I have learned from it and I’m not repeating the same mistakes. Honoring my strengths and my values is empowering. It generates an inner happiness for me that brings with it a sense of harmony, and peace with the world.

As the question implies, self-acceptance and unconditional love is a practice. It isn’t something that you achieve and check-off the to-do list. It’s about your relationship with yourself and like all relationships, it takes maintenance and you can’t just keep doing what has worked previously …

Recently, I’ve started yoga. At first my goals were purely physical – because I wanted to work on my flexibility and balance. I have been frustrated at my pain and inability even in some of the simplest of poses – it pains me to sit crossed legged even! As I listened to my yoga teacher yesterday, I understood that my yoga would also be mental. I understood getting frustrated wouldn’t get me anywhere and would spoil my enjoyment. Pushing my joints into angles they don’t want to go could cause injury and that’s not going to help with my physical goals. I understood my yoga would be about getting more familiar with my body, what it can do, what it can’t and working out, with the help of my teacher, how to make the poses work for me. I think it’s my next phase of self-acceptance.

Interested in reading more about self-acceptance? Visit Blogher’s Life Well Lived – Getting Happy. You can also enter the current Life Well Lived Sweepstakes.

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  • Sumant

    On Yoga…..the word in Sanskrit means to “unite with” or “yoke onto” a Higher Ideal –
    whatever name we choose to call that Higher Ideal by. The idea is to gradually, but
    persistently, elevate the state of consciousness from which we function. Since we are
    endowed with a body, that process must include ways of making the body healthy as
    well. But unlike what the term has come to mean, the physical aspect is only a PART of
    the process and the union has to be an INTEGRAL one – of the body, mind and pyshic.

    So, you are very right, Mandy, in seeing it as more than just physical.

    The tradition of Yoga goes back atleast 4000 years, through a lineage of venerated
    masters, and even today, there are such masters whose shadow I do not merit standing
    in. My only submission is a clarification on the term, since for the most part it has
    come to be equated with aerobics.

    Have a super week ahead !


    • Mandy Walker

      Thanks Sumant. I’d heard so many people talk about the emotional/mental side of yoga but I just hadn’t understood it before this weekend and I guess that’s part of the learning of yoga. the realization is motivating me to keep practicing despite the pain and discomfort.

  • Michelle Leath

    This is so great, Mandy. I can relate to so much of what you are saying, the guilt, the blame, the internalized anger. By sharing your specific examples it really illumnates new possibilities for others, so thank you for that. I agree that self-love is an ongoing relationship, a practice. I have a tendency to be perfectionistic, and can even be hard on myself when I am not mastering my personal growth!  One of my strategies (that I was just using last night) is this: when I am feeling low, doubtful, frustrated, etc. I write a note to myself in my journal, saying what I WISH a loving friend or partner would say to me in the situation. It helps me get out of my head and into a place of empathy and acceptance for myself. Last night it worked like a charm!

    • Mandy Walker

      I love your strategy of writing what you’d want a good friend to say – I’ll have to remember that. Good idea!

  • Denise

    Celebrating your strengths — what a great thing to do! Its so easy to focus on our weaknesses, but it should be just as easy (and far healthier!) to instead focus on our strengths.

    • Mandy Walker

      I agree – don’t know why we focus so much on our weaknesses. There have been times when one of my children will say something like “I’m really good at … ” or “I really like how I look ..” and I’ve been on the verge of saying something about “modesty being a virtue” but then I stop and think, wow, I’m really impressed that they can say that so strongly. I hope they never stop.

  • GailDStorey

    What a useful post for everyone, divorced or not. When my husband says I look beautiful when I’m pretty sure I look like dirt, I now say “Thank you, Sweetheart,” instead of suggesting he get glasses. ;-D

    • Mandy Walker

      Yes! And I hope you believe it. You could ask him what it is about you that’s beautiful … I’m curious if he’ll come up with some observations like Maya Angelou would say, like “the way your mouth curves when you smile,” or “the way your eyes look when you’re being playful,” …