Broadening your horizons: Thoughtful ways to accept all shades of yourself

We talk a lot in this space about acceptance of self, and our feelings. All shades.

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Pic: Flat Icon

Most of us are uncomfortable when we know that our darker shades are known to others. We like to protect our view of ourselves (our brand) and at worst, pretend these shades don’t exist, or at least minimise them. We do this through reframing ourselves (“it wasn’t that bad, I’m not normally like that, considering the circumstances it is totally ok”). Of course there is nothing wrong with reframing when it is done in a healthy and constructive way. In fact, it is a really great defense mechanism against a downward negative spiral - which most of us are prone to do from time to time. However, it can be really useful to understand and accept your flaws – sometimes to work on them, sometimes to bring a level of security in being comfortable in our own skin.

Given our natural tendency to soften the undesirable view of  ourselves, it can be difficult for us to have a clear view.  Here are four ways for you to broaden your own worldview, whilst keeping yourself safe:

1.    Ask people directly: Simple, but one with the most risk. The risk comes from your vulnerability against others insensitivity. Oftentimes people will stall until they find their words and their comfort with reading the situation. You being open and calm will provide the most conducive environment. Most people will tread carefully, and soften feedback if they perceive any stress within the conversation.

2.    Watch and listen for cues in general conversation: Most of us overlook this in the desire to feel as though we are liked. People tell you how they feel about you or an attribute of yours. Oftentimes the learning is hiding in plain sight, through a joke, or sarcasm. Don’t discount this feedback. If you notice a sensation in your body that feels like a defender – the simple truth is it has truth in it. The trick is to wait until you feel calm and safe again, then unpack the comment together. This is a skill that can take time, but the key is to keep it constructive.

3.    Journal: We usually have a sense of knowing our flaws and foibles. The older we get, the rarer it is for us to have a trait or attribute we are unfamiliar with. Perhaps we don’t have words for it, a name or frame, but we will have somewhere to start. Grab a pen and paper and make some space to write. Then write. It’s as simple as that. If you find you are blocked, you will have stumbled across a defense mechanism. Be kind to yourself and wait - it will pass. Then keep writing. I find it can help to talk with someone you trust about what you have journalled.

4.    See a psychologist: Discussing yourself and your life with a trained professional can help you to build a map of yourself and your life, as well as deepen coping tools and acceptance of yourself. Remember, if you don’t click with your therapist, don’t stop looking for a therapist you do click with. Good therapy is such a worthwhile and life changing experience.

How do you broaden your own self-view?