Self acceptance and anxiety

I think one of the most difficult notions is that of self care or self love. We have all heard the idea that "in order to love someone else you must love yourself first"! How many of us struggle with that? I must love me? With all my failings and unpleasant thoughts and shame? Yes! But it isn't as easy as loving someone else, someone whose inner thoughts and failings we can't see, or don't know about, or if we do, recognise them as part of the whole and not a definition of them. Because that I think, is the hard bit: getting past your own shame enough to realise that your are not a "bad person" (whatever that is!), that your bad thoughts, behaviour or experiences do not define you. They are a part of you, and when you can integrate them into yourself, and accept them, then the self care thing becomes easier.

In Britain we have all sorts of little catch phrases we teach to children: "don't show off", "don't blow your own trumpet", "you're getting to big for your boots", "put others first". These can be useful to a greater or lesser extent, but we forget children are very literally minded and these things become unspoken laws in our heads, making the idea of self care equate with selfishness, which is something quite different. What is wrong with knowing when you have done well, or are good at something? We seem to have taken British understatement into our psyches at a very fundamental level, and the fear of becoming "big-headed" or "arrogant" gets in the way of self assessment.

The first step to self care is, I think, self acceptance. All this positive thinking stuff that is around at the moment doesn't really work because the little voice in your head silently whispers that it's not true. But a realistic assessment that most people can make is "I am no worse than anyone else", which is a start. In my years as a therapist I think the one thing most of my clients have in common is a tendency to believe that they are somehow worse, less deserving and more unloveable than anyone and everyone else. So self acceptance, I am no worse than anyone else, can be a big step.

All this reduces anxiety, especially about "what will people think", because you know you're OK, so chances are others will think so too.

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