I remember when my coach kept insisting I did not need to do everything I believed I needed to do. I felt myself getting more and more irritated with him because I knew I could not just stop doing the things that needed to be done in my life. I felt myself building to anger. I knew I wasn’t angry at him, but I felt like I was in this perpetual cycle of never enough time and so much to do. To blow things off and be irresponsible was not part of who I am. So how could he say I needed to quit doing?
I had been in the self-improvement movement for years. So why were there still so many challenges after that many years of study and work?
In their book, Good Enough Is the New Perfect (2011), Temple and Gillespie found that women broadly fell into two categories: “never enoughs” and “good enoughs.”
The never-enoughs felt they needed to be the best at everything. Judging from this standard of perfection, they would more often describe their marriages as poor, or even a disaster. The good-enoughs were fine not being the best and were able to be more satisfied and happier in their marriages. They found women able to embrace a Good Enough mindset could be happier, more confident, and more successful. Good enough could well be synonymous with self-acceptance.
Success Coach Margaret Lynch has a brilliant process where she leads people to the realization that they need to first make peace with their self before it is possible to make peace with their money goal. If making a certain amount of money has attached to it what she calls a “big emotional energy”—such as "I will finally be acceptable or loveable or successful when I make this amount of money"—then no wonder people struggle at making the money. She emphasizes that money has to be about sharing your gifts with the world and not proving yourself.
Moeller (2010), in her book Waiting for Jack: Confessions of a Self-help Junkie, says we can’t go around with the idea that “one day I’ll arrive; one day I’ll be whole,” she said. “It’s an illusion that one day I’ll be fixed.”
The truth is, self-improvement needs to start with self-acceptance. When you're dissatisfied with yourself, it creates negative emotions which put you in the stress cycle where you lose access to your creative and problem-solving abilities. Acceptance creates peace, which is an ultimate productive state.
That doesn’t mean you can sabotage your health or finances by making bad choices and say "This is where I am now, so I accept it." We still need to be grown up. It is healthier to say, "I haven't been taking care of myself, and I'm not happy with the results. So I'm going to make some changes so that I can feel better and be healthier again."
Another part of self-acceptance is compassion for the self. Few of us escaped childhood without some area of not feeling good enough. The peace comes when you finally realize you are not your programming. All the things you accepted as true were nothing more than someone else’s opinion. These opinions were formed out of their programming. Sometimes there is work to be done to move some of this baggage out of the way to get to self-acceptance.
I loved what Henry Emmons , M.D. had to say in his article, “The Chemistry of Calm” (2011): “There is a Japanese word that captures the dynamic tension created by acceptance and the desire for change—arugamama. Arugamama is a state of unconditional acceptance of yourself and your life as they are at this moment, but with the simultaneous intention to act in positive ways to create change. As one Buddhist teacher humorously put it, 'You are perfect as you are…and you could use some improvement!' Beginning with this energized self-acceptance is the ultimate 'start where you are' stance".
Author: Debra Kahnen, RN, ND, is the CEO of Life Mastery LLC. With over three decades of healthcare experience—as both a nursing leader in the largest not-for-profit health system in Texas and as a naturopath focusing on wellness—her view is radically different. Debra is a renowned expert in stress management and wellness. She helps people improve their health and emotional well-being to allow for more peace, joy, and personal satisfaction. Get a free special short video eCourse, "Take back control of your life NOW!”, so you can experience more balance and ease in your life.