“The good, the bad, and the ugly.” I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before, and just the other day, as I was thinking about embracing and accepting even my dark moments, that saying ran through my head. I needed to embrace “the good, the bad, and the ugly” about myself.
But it sounded wrong. It assumed the negative outweighed the positive. Where was the wonderful?
I’ve known for a while I need to embrace the moments where I make mistakes, fall apart, or act out of tune with myself or others. I need to embrace the dark and painful moments, the fears, anxiety, and anger.
The more I thought about embracing every part of myself, the more I realized when we forget to embrace “the ugly,” we also forget to embrace “the wonderful.” In rejecting my mess-ups and self-sabotaging to bully myself out of ever making a mistake again, I also reject and scorn my accomplishments and passions. In denying myself the freedom to embrace my imperfections, I push away everything I love and enjoy as well.
That hit me really strongly and reminded me of something Brené Brown brought up in her TED Talk about vulnerability: If we don’t allow ourselves to experience the emotions we tend to reject (fear, anger, pain, grief, shame), we also close off our ability to access joy, happiness, and peace. Our emotional experience is intertwined. We can’t have positive without negative or good without bad (I hesitate, however, to label uncomfortable emotions as bad just because they can be difficult to deal with). We can’t experience joy and bliss without crippling grief and raw anger. The strength of the emotion stays the same for all emotions. We can dim that strength (as I frequently do), but that causes both positive and negative emotions to fade. It doesn’t discriminate between the two.
For myself, I need to accept the parts of me I’m not too happy with: panic attacks, numbness, mistakes, guilt, irritation, fear. I frequently bully myself after, say, I spend my entire day on the verge of a panic attack or I make a mistake. I reject when joy or happiness comes up, not wanting to embrace the good things because I feel I haven’t earned or don’t deserve them.
But there lies the irony. If I reject the good parts of myself, I also reject the fact I’m imperfect, which sets me up to be a perfectionist. If I reject joy, I reject grief (the kind that clears your system and leaves you feeling more whole and healed afterward). If I reject moments where I stumble, I also then reject a great time with those I love.
The two are yin and yang. I can’t have joy without grief or bliss without pain. And would I want to? Grief and pain and fear and anger are nothing to be avoided. They are parts of ourselves. They allow us to grow and learn and heal. By the same token, what good does it do to reject happiness, peace, and bliss?
Anyone who’s been through depression understands the treasure of being able to feel. I treasure when I can feel sadness or embrace a panic attack. I treasure that ability. I sure as hell don’t want to dim my experience or reject any part of myself. I know what that’s like.
So what do we do? How do we embrace every part of ourselves—joy and fear, pain and bliss, accomplishments and mistakes?
That’s the question I’m asking myself, and one I don’t have a concrete answer to yet. One thing I did for myself was write a mantra I kept with me throughout the day that read “I welcome the good things in my life.” It was really interesting to me that just as I’d been rejecting the “bad” parts of myself, I’d also been rejecting the good. The mantra helped me remember that receiving good things is . . . well . . . good!
The biggest step for me right now has been paying attention to how I treat myself when things go well and when they seem to go south. I’m quicker to notice and name when I’m rejecting “the ugly” and “the wonderful.”
On top of the mantra and trying to journal daily, as well as meditate at least once every couple of days, I’ve also found it useful to tap into my dominant love language: gifts. It’s easier for me to make a wise, loving decision for myself if I view it as a gift to myself. This helps me accept the good things that come my way or offer myself compassion when I feel down, and it counteracts that bullying tendency to reject myself if I don’t meet a certain standard.
It doesn’t work all the time. If you’re really down on yourself, you won’t feel like giving yourself a gift, and you’ll be self-sabotaging so hard, you will have a hard time trying to receive it. In fact, it can feel impossible.
Know that you will stumble. There will be setbacks. The game is to accept as many of those setbacks (and as many of the joys in your life) as possible! If you don’t, no biggie. Once you’ve come out of your cycle and steadied yourself, offer yourself love and acceptance, and keep going. It may feel like one step forward and two back at first, but that’s how change works.
What about you?: What parts of yourself (good or bad) are you rejecting? Whether it’s seeing the good things as gift, or taking it on as a game to see how much you can embrace in a day or even an hour, what are ways you’ve learned or are learning to accept and love yourself no matter what?
Best wishes and much love! ❤ 🙂