“Gotta pick up the kids from school.” “Gotta get this report done by tomorrow.” “Gotta shop for dinner.” “Gotta pay the bills!” “Gotta get to the gym and lose this extra weight.” “Gotta get to the dry cleaners before they close.” Gotta, gotta, gotta.
The hustle and bustle of life and the need to get somewhere are themes I hear frequently. We are seekers. We are travelers. And we are often unaware that we are reaching for something while ignoring what is happening right now—within ourselves and around us.
We often are trying to get somewhere in terms of our emotional life, too. Or we’re trying to stop a rush of emotions that may be overwhelming or confusing. People ask me daily: “Why can’t I be patient with my child?” [Because you’re not.] or “I earn great money. Why can’t I just be happy with my job?” [Because you’re not.] or “Why can’t I control my temper?” [Because you don’t.]
Jeff Foster, author of the book The Deepest Acceptance and founder of Life without a Centre, says it well:
“The question ‘What are you seeking in the future?’ is identical with the question ‘What are you running away from right now?’”
For many, many years I tried to be something I wasn’t. I fought an inner battle to be someone other than myself. Every time I missed the mark. Not because I lacked perseverance or the will to work hard, but because I was rowing upstream—against my own stream of self.
Judging Ourselves Leads to Discontent and Negative Chatter
The expectations I had of myself were relentless: “Don’t be so sensitive” [but I was]. “Don’t be so emotional” [but I was]. “Be calmer, be more patient, be a more understanding mother…” Blah, blah, blah.
My greatest source of peace, as well as the springboard for my biggest leap in growth, was stopping this merciless chatter and getting curious about my inner experience and what it was telling me. At first, I’d stop and check in, only to find myself judging my behavior harshly once again—and then judging myself because I was judging myself. Ever been on that hamster wheel? It’s no fun.
Then I decided that I was going to look at this quandary differently. My first step toward freedom came in accepting a quality that I loathed about myself: my “bitchy,” reactions when I was stressed or overwhelmed. I asked myself, “What‘s good about this quality?” And to my surprise, the answers came quickly: “I know how to stand up for myself.” “I can draw boundaries for others’ disrespectful behavior.” “It stops people in their tracks when they are trying to bulldoze me.” “It keeps me from feeling unsafe and helpless.” On and on the awareness flowed, like a rushing stream in spring melt. In that moment, I accepted my b-i-t-c-h status with an impish sliver of prideful glee.
Now, just because I discovered the purpose of this behavior doesn’t mean that I stopped there. I still wanted to learn how to respond with confidence and also with respect. So I made a commitment to seal my lips and walk away before blurting out some thoughtless comment. Guess what happened? Soon after I made this agreement with myself, I blew it!—and then berated myself for failing. Ouch!
Self-Compassion Is Vital on the Path of Growth
My point here is that when we trip up and repeat a long-standing behavior after making a commitment to ourselves to do better, at first we may fall flat on our face. But that’s okay, because our awareness is growing. Be gentle with yourself. We often move back to an old behavior like it’s a comfortable ole pair of slippers. We return to the behavior because it’s familiar; we’ve worn that armor for so long that it feels natural.
I persevered. Each time I felt like my personality was taken over by General Patton, I’d stop and get in touch with what was going on inside me. When I took time to be present to myself and feel what was bubbling under the surface, the emotion dissipated and I was able to respond lovingly and respectfully. Sometimes I had to take some space to calm down, but it got easier and easier to convert the energy. With a lot of practice, it became as easy as flipping a switch.
The faster we’re going, the more likely it is that we’re ignoring something important trying to get through to us. Slow down and listen. Perhaps do a mind dump of the things stressing you or try journaling. Mindfulness in our daily lives leads to greater peace.
Don’t rush to get somewhere or to be something you’re not. Instead, stop. Be present to what you’re experiencing internally. Find out what you need and give it to yourself. It can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths or being grateful for your latest success that you brushed over too quickly. When I showed up for myself with curiosity and compassion, peace and confidence replaced my sense of overwhelming anxiety. The side effect of self-acceptance is self-love.
The answers lie within you. Everyone is unique, so each person’s answer is different. That’s why it’s so important to listen to your own heart. When you find yourself rushing, busily trying to get somewhere, stop, take a few breaths, and ask if you’re trying to get away from an uncomfortable feeling or avoid a conflict. That something is your friend, and therein you will find your peace through acceptance.
And if you want support or desire to learn more about self-acceptance and emotional intelligence, contact us at Heartmanity.