Self-Acceptance through Loving-Kindness - Simply Mindful

Self-Acceptance through Loving-Kindness


 

“I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be.” 

~Pema Chödrön


We’re officially in a new decade, which is exciting! And with that newness of a clean slate comes a lot of excitement around resolutions, goals, and intentions we choose to embark on. On the other side of this spectrum, the pressure we may take towards getting it all done can dampen the well-intended goals we set out to achieve if those high expectations are unsuccessful. That’s why I like to explore the concept of self-acceptance as opposed to self-improvement – to do more, be more. What if we prioritized loving ourselves just the way is? There is great power in learning to give ourselves appreciation for how far we’ve come. As we move through this season of change, discovering ways to bring compassion, kindness, and acceptance to ourselves is enough.

Mindfulness is the foundation of self-compassion. When we bring more attention to our emotions and accept the range we experience – like fear, anger, jealousy, pain, joy, and sorrow, to name a few – we can take risks with our attention and stretch into new ways of relating to them in a loving and caring way. When moving toward self-compassion, the bonding hormone oxytocin is released, which increases feelings of trust, calm, safety, and generosity. The starting point for reexamining love can be through mindfulness or bringing gentle awareness to the emotions we observe, honoring their presence, then letting them go.

My new year began on the heels of a breakup. The emotions that have bubbled up into this new year haven’t been easy, so finding ways to be kind to myself through the messiness of the range of feelings is difficult. Through this process, however, I’m changing my mental and emotional experience by building my self-compassion muscle. I’m also changing my body chemistry since self-criticism triggers the fight or flight response releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Loving-kindness is a practice that starts with befriending rather than making an enemy out of ourselves.

Mindfulness creates a softening around self-judgment.
Loving-kindness cultivates our minds and hearts to be more loving.

Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Love explains that loving kindness is open, accessible, unconditional, and abundant. It’s a practice of offering to oneself and others a wish to be happy, peaceful, healthy, and strong. To truly love ourselves, she explains, we must treat our stories respectfully and not allow them to have a stranglehold on us. When we free our future from our past, we must open to our wholeness rather than clinging to the slivers of ourselves represented by old stories. Living in a story of a limited self to any degree is not loving-kindness. We must challenge our beliefs that we must be different or better.

We live in a critical world. It comes from external sources that we internalize, which are not real. We think self-critical is valuable, especially if we don’t meet our high expectations when setting goals. The rationale for it is that it can motivate us to improve. Is that true? Take a step back and investigate, so they are not ruling you. Our thoughts are potent, so don’t believe everything you think. Mindfulness, it’s like a pin to a balloon, it pricks, and the thought disappears or lessens its control. Try using that visualization to help bring you back to the present the next time you find yourself being self-critical.

As we wrap up the first week of the New Year, I would like to extend many wishes of loving-kindness to you for a fresh, gentle, and deliberate start to the new decade just the as you are. Happy New Year!

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