Balancing finding yourself with self-acceptance of who you are
Do you often find yourself needing something to distract you from a feeling or intrusive thought? Distract you from what?
People often need to find things to distract themselves with, whether it’s possessions or exciting activities. Many people choose positive interests such as yoga, sport, art, music, collecting nice things, nice clothes, even meditation mindfulness, skiing holidays etc. In my experience the reason why the perceived self, 'the ego', always needs to keep feeding itself is because it cannot accept something that is within us. Possibly something that is currently outside of awareness. The distracting and busyness can act as a defence against feeling or remembering something that perhaps we perceive is too painful. Perhaps this is why some people find meditation difficult?
Feelings of anger, sadness or shame feel unbearable, and this is why we seek distractions so frequently, or anything other than just being quietly with ourselves. Infinite forms of materialism and needing gratification give us something that is more bearable to reflect off of, which can help us to feel better. For example, if you identify most with being a dancer, it probably helps to take you away from yourself somewhat and helps you to feel more self-accepting. Interestingly though, we may find that not just any dance will have the desired effect; we probably need a specific type of dance that suits our character style, whether it be grounding or more like floating.
Many ancient philosophies and teachings tell us that the ego is insatiable and can never be gratified for long before it needs something else again. Its default is usually not to accept whatever is happening now, but to focus on something that hasn’t been attained yet, like another achievement, or some other external gratification.
It's interesting how, once something new is attained, it can quickly lose its appeal.
Paradoxically, it’s probably a very good idea to have some healthy distractions at least some of the time, because if you don't, your life and your concept of yourself can become unbearably frustrating to you and perhaps others as well.
However, over time, it can be very beneficial not to gratify every impulse or distraction we feel tempted by, but to discern if we might benefit from being with ourselves and accepting whatever is occurring right now, without being distracted for as long as we can bear. I feel this is where mindfulness can be very powerful and useful. By exposing ourselves to more and more discomfort within ourselves mindfully and with as much awareness as we can cultivate, we can gain a higher level of tolerance in being with just our self.
However, when the balancing act between self-gratification or self-neglect is too polarized, then we may find that it can lead to a more dysfunctional life.
If we invest in becoming more and more self-aware and tolerant of what is hard to bear in life, then we will potentially cultivate a stronger sense of self when facing our demons or the worst that could happen.
The sort of person you are will determine what you need more or less of than others. For example:
- Are you someone quite passive or non-committed? Do you avoid risk or stepping out of your comfort zone at all costs? Then you might need to work on being assertive and accessing your inner fire of strength and confidence. You may need to find interests that ground you and help to cultivate confidence and inner strength.
- Or are you someone who is always doing an activity, who doesn’t sit still, but is good at organising others and loves a challenge? Maybe you would benefit from slowing down and work on how it feels when you are not dealing with your comfort zone challenges.
- Or maybe you are the sort of person who blocks your desires and needs; you don’t listen to much music or read much, don't indulge in pleasure, luxury or entertainment very often? This will determine which direction you need to apply more or less engagement in to become more comfortable and confident in yourself.
The more you distract yourself with a new or different self-identity that is overall more beneficial for you, the less you will give power to your old, limited self-identity.
It may feel like something within you is fighting back harder at first, but it won't be long before you realise that's not where the real power is - in fact, you are your own creation to be rewritten, revamped or pimped up however and whenever you choose.
So, have you ever wondered how can talking therapies and coaching can help you?
A solution-focused, empathic approach can help you find and utilise your personal interests and passions whilst considering balance and cultivating tolerance in areas you’d previously shy away from. Though it is worth exploring, we can’t change the past - we can only use it to help us make choices in the present. However, spending lots of time going over things we cannot change is unlikely to improve our lives - instead, taking action and doing something in the present can improve your life.
Whenever I hear people claim that only other people have psychological challenges and emotional problems, I see this as evidence that they are in denial - they are just like everybody else and, in fact, the ones who share their vulnerability, their problems, their imperfections as others might see them, are even better set to change and grow in new positive and exciting ways.
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About Paul Weeden
I run a private practice therapy for coaching and supervision practice in London and East Sussex. I have a passion for self-expression and exploration through music, body movement and awareness, well-being through yoga, martial arts and meditation.