Most of us want to do things well. Some of us want to be perfect.
No matter where you fall on this spectrum, at some point you need to make peace with your imperfections. If you don’t, you are destined to suffer.
I’m not intending to paint a bleak picture but the fact is we all have imperfections. Maybe we don’t have the perfect body, we don’t take tests well, or we struggle to keep houseplants alive. Whatever the flaw, the closer we come to accepting the reality of our shortcomings, the closer we move towards self-acceptance.
From an evolutionary perspective, we all just want to belong and feel secure. If we’re not accepted we’re at risk, so the mind goes into overdrive to help us be more perfect so we can “fit in” with our tribe and feel safe.
We may constantly be in search of the perfect outfit, gadget, home furnishing, or we may regularly go out of our way to say something smart to impress the right people. Or we might pick more destructive habits, abusing drugs, alcohol, or sex as a means to fit in. Underlying all of this is a subtle belief that we are not okay just as we are.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed by psychologist Marsha Linehan, PhD to address the two opposing notions: “I’m perfect just the way I am” and “it’s time for me to change.” DBT can help individuals to manage stress, regulate emotions, and improve their relationships, and the therapy is largely rooted in teaching self-acceptance.
How to Practice Self-Acceptance
Start by acknowledging things as they are and try to put aside your lenses of judgment. There are many opportunities to do this.
If you’re waiting in line, the moment you notice yourself feeling aggravated, stop and acknowledge the aggravation. Explore the feeling in your body and investigate the contours, spikes, and expansion of the emotion. By the time you’ve finished the exercise, you’re likely to feel less aggravated and perhaps more aware of, and empathetic toward, others around you.
If you find yourself feeling ashamed of some imperfection, acknowledge it and investigate the shame in the same way.
When you do this, you’re opening up to understand the feeling while caring about yourself at the same time. Understanding and caring are the pillars of acceptance. If you felt understood and cared about you’d feel accepted, right? That is what we’re practicing, and we can do it with a range of emotion, whether fear, anger, calm, love, joy, anxiety, or even confusion.
Every time you do this you water the seeds of self-acceptance and begin making peace with your imperfections.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.