...is our goal if we want to feel more calm, confident and content. Living authentically requires the relationship we have with ourselves to be balanced and healthy, free of too much stifling, meddling or pleasing, while staying true to our selves.
To reduce anxiety and improve balance in our relationships we need self-knowledge, self-compassion and self-acceptance.
Knowing what we want and need aids decision making and contributes to feeling confident. It’s as hard to list desired non-material needs and wants, as it is to collect them. These life essentials are not sold pre-packaged in stores or conveniently offered online. We must cultivate the nonmaterial over time, requiring patience and perseverance. Some of us find it speeds the process to journal. Others take classes, go on retreats, study nature or test ourselves physically by running marathons. Rarely does this information come from self-help books alone. The paradox of learning about ourselves is that it requires interacting with others to share and validate what we learn from self-reflection.
Compassion is a current meme coursing through our lives and while we may understand the concept, applying it to ourselves is challenging. One of the first things we, as clients, learn is to monitor and edit the way we talk to ourselves, especially when we make mistakes. What we say to ourselves matters. Criticizing and insulting ourselves creates a negative internal environment and a blue mood that zaps energy, interferes with sleep and makes us less tolerant of others. There is surprising resistance to being kind to ourselves. Some believe it means lowered standards (notice the inherent negativity of that statement?). Self-compassion tells us to treat ourselves the way we treat the people we care about.
The process of self-reflection in counseling makes it easier to see the things we want to change in order to have more of what we want. However, some of what is revealed is painful. Rather than deny or avoid the unpleasant things we invariably do, self-acceptance asks us to look directly at our faults and foibles, resolve to do things differently next time and be kind to ourselves while we learn. It does not mean that we let ourselves get away with bad behavior. That's denial. Nor does it mean that we only look at what we do well and already accept. That's avoidance. Self-acceptance acknowledges flaws and limitations while it makes room for growth. It also helps reduces stress.