It is very easy for us to identify what’s wrong with us, what we don’t do well, what we fail at – we’re well trained in that! And we can try to counteract that by things like affirmations: I am beautiful; I am a good person, etc.
I don’t know about you, but I’m never quite convinced by that. So I tend to give up on affirmations quite quickly, and I needed an alternative approach.
I think there are three things that need adjusting for this to work.
- Don’t counteract, have both sides
By this I mean that we can have a list of our ‘failings’ and a list of things we do well. The first stage of acceptance is admitting to all of our strengths and weaknesses.
- Add in some qualifiers to make it easier.
The statements we make about ourselves tend to be all or nothing statements: I’m moody; I’m useless at being consistent etc. And we have the same problem with affirmations: I’m a good person will almost always bring to mind the examples when we’re not being a good person!
The qualifiers are words like: usually; sometimes; at the moment; often; mostly; occasionally; just for today. They allow us to acknowledge what we’re like without over-exaggerating it.
Examples would be: I’m usually kind; I sometimes have a bad mood; I mostly eat healthily; I occasionally have a bad day; at the moment I’m feeling miserable.
The qualifiers require us to look beyond the immediate feeling and assess ourselves on a longer-term basis, which gives us more perspective.
- Allow for progress
If we want to get better at being a certain way, we need to give ourselves a chance to develop it.
‘I’m beginning to..’ ‘I’m learning to…’ or ‘I’m starting to..’ will allow us to count those first steps towards improvement.
‘I’m getting better at..’ ‘ I now more often…’ allow us to recognise that we’re moving beyond first steps and towards habit.
These then become more realistic statements as well as being kinder to ourselves.
With these adjustments, we have a much better chance of accepting how we are, whilst helping ourselves to be more how we want to be.
I want to be more of who I can be, and this helps me to not get stuck on my failings, but instead build on what I have already. It also helps me to remember that it’s OK to not get it ‘right’ all the time – being human is different from being perfect!
So next time you decide to beat yourself up for being crap at something, have a go at this approach instead and see what happens.