Four Principles for Gaining Self Acceptance:
Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. We can criticize ourselves more than our harshest critics. Acceptance helps to clear the mind and make space for a new job.
Excerpt from my new book: Outsiders On The Inside: How To Create A Winning Career Even When You Don’t Fit In! Career Press Reproduced with Permission
- · Stop the chatter
- · We are all the same
- · Give and receive
- · True passion
Stop the Chatter.
Being different kept my voices busy. My chatter or those gremlins, as a coach I know calls them, or more simply, my fears always had some opinion, warning, or command about my differences. My life was like watching a movie with the director’s commentary turned on.
It went something like this:
“Okay, in this scene I’m meeting a group of people I’ve never met. I am taller than all of them so I’m going to be a real outsider. That person is staring at me and wondering how tall I am.”
“Why don’t you take this direction: slouch a little and make yourself a little shorter! That way you won’t stand out so much.”
It was irritating and depressing and infuriating especially since there would often be a group of directors all talking at the same time. One would tell me to slouch. Another would tell me to go to the bar and get a drink. Another would tell me I felt ill and I should go home. Another would say that I should make a joke to make the group forget about my height. None of the voices would say,
“You’re tall, so what, now go have a good time.”
How I cleared my mind was by taking a series of steps.
- First, I identified some of these voices. By realizing that there was someone who was telling me to “blend into the background” I could start to act differently. It’s a simple as the idea of knowing your enemy.
- I thanked the voices for their concern but assured them that I could manage well without them. The voices are often part of your subconscious that wants to protect you. They want to make sure you are okay, just like your mother may have when you were small. But just as parents do things with the best intentions so do our voices. So don’t disown your parents for trying to do the best from you and don’t banish your voices without thanking them for their efforts. Just like our moms and dads like being treated nicely much more than they being shouted at so do our voices!
- I meditated. Meditation is like pouring lotion on sunburn—cooling and quieting. Focusing on being still meant that some of the voices also became still and shut up! Meditation doesn’t have to mean that you sit on the top of a mountain wearing Birkenstocks. To me it is just letting my mind have a rest by reflecting on one image—the waves coming in and out or a peaceful beach, or one concept such as peace, or on words like “I am complete and whole.” It can last for a minute or two or for a week or three. It can happen in you tea-ceremony room, in your office with the door shut or on a crowded bus when you shut your eyes. There is no right or wrong way to meditate.
- I kept monitoring. If I found that if I was confused or depressed I thought about what my voices were doing. Were they busy commenting? And was this why I was having a hard time? Or was there something different happening? The voices try to get back into the foreground when you don’t notice it.
- I accepted that my voices might always be there but that I didn’t need to let them decide my life. I could turn them off or turn the volume down or even switch channels!
Keeping the chatter down has helped me to focus on what is important—living in the present—rather than worrying about what has happened.
We are All the Same.
If we believe that we’re all part of the same world created by a universal power and we’re a reflection of that power, perfection and purpose, then it becomes hard to think that we are worse or better than other people. Of course on the surface there are hundreds of differences but underneath we’re all just energy, souls and love, however we might want to describe it. If we want to see things in more concrete terms we’re all a bunch of cells, a bag of skin and a mix of genetic matter. If we are the same on a fundamental difference then how can we be a outsider? On the surface we may be, but what is down below is the same.
As part of my New Age journey, I attended a men’s retreat. It was held in the English countryside in a rundown house with organic food and bad plumbing. Out of the twenty men on the retreat there was one person who literally scared me. John had Hell’s Angels tattoos, vicious piercings and he smelled bad. He was from a tough part of London and I was a soft middle-class suburban type. I decided I didn’t like him, didn’t approve of him and was going to steer clear of someone like that.
One of the activities was to work with a partner on key events in our lives that had brought us to where we were. I found myself with him and I also found out that I was completely wrong about him. He turned out to be a gentle, thoughtful, intelligent and wonderful human being. Underneath the smoking, boozing and raging that I had seen was a really nice guy. We were much more alike than we were different. From that point on, I learned to see beyond the outside cover and read the book inside a person. I found that like good literature or powerful books, there is a universal message that we are all the same.
We are expert storytellers. To me, my father was someone who was loving, but was distant and, if I was honest, didn’t approve of me and the way I had turned out. Although we had a good relationship and had enjoyed many of the same things, I was very stuck in my story about him. He was into sports. I wasn’t. He was right wing. I wasn’t. He was married with two kids and I wasn’t. When I was younger I had blamed him for all kinds of things from not going to Oxford University as I had planned to my fine and thinning hair. With maturity, reflection and therapy, I had realized he had done his best and had nothing to be blamed for. Still I was holding onto my story that I was different from the way he wanted his son to turn out. I knew that he wasn’t proud of me and that most of his friends didn’t even know who I was, what I did and what my dreams were.
At his funeral I found out that my story was excellent fiction. Of the fifty people or so who came to his funeral probably about forty of them came up to me and introduced themselves. They knew who I was, what I did and what my dreams were. My dad’s friends kept saying how much he talked about me and how proud he was of me—making a career in California, having books published and a play produced. The truth about my dad was a lie.
We all make up stories about ourselves, other people and the world. I used to say, “I never win anything!” until I realized that saying I don’t win anything was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I won $160 in Las Vegas right after that so I know that giving up that story has worked out.
We are different and then we make up stories about what that means. Often our stories are based on experiences from the past. A high school teacher who we respect tells us that we’ll never be a great artist. We take that opinion and make it into the longest-running mini-series ever. If anyone ever asks us to draw a picture, whether to amuse a toddler, as part of a party game, or in physical therapy we revert to our story: “I’m not an artist I can’t draw.” Or we create another story from the same event: “No one’s going to tell me I’m not an artist. I’m going to show her (or him).”
Our story is that we are a great artist so we paint and paint and we end up famous as a great and gifted artist or end up as a flop doing something we never cared about much but having created a saga about proving that teacher wrong. Our story is: “I’m a famous artist” or: “I’m going to die trying rather than admit my teacher was right.”
Instead of seeing the world as a blank slate where anything is possible we go back to the past and find evidence for why we will or will not be successful or why we do or don’t fit in.
Forgetting our stories can be a useful, spiritual way of dealing with some of the pain of being a outsider. If a teacher tells us we will never be a great painter, we can choose to make that part of the past and look at what’s possible in the present. We can start, literally, with a blank canvas. We don’t know whether we will be a great painter and we don’t know if we even want to be but we can let our spirit decide for us. You can ask: Am I enjoying what I’m doing? Is this fun? Is this rewarding? Is this my passion? If it is, keep on painting. Who cares about being great, pleasing the teacher or making him or her wrong or right if you are doing what you want to!
Stories are Powerful.
Stories have enormous power. Here are a couple of my stories:
“I’m British and British humor doesn’t travel well to the States so I can’t sell comedy here.” I found out that wasn’t true when a play of mine was produced and got some major laughs. Until that point I had believed that story.
“I don’t like dogs.” According to family legend I had an encounter with an Alsatian when I was a baby, which scarred me. When I got my own dog and started to realize that there was actually nothing to be afraid of I got over my past. Now when I see a dog coming toward me I don’t cross the street. I ignore or pet the dog, depending on what I feel like doing.
Give and Receive
Many New Age theories have some form of giving and receiving as a core belief. I know that what I give to other people directly relates to what I receive. This can mean physical objects or money and it can mean actions, behaviors and words.
I know that if I get to the car rental desk with an “attitude” because my flight was late, my luggage was lost and the handle on my suitcase broke en route, I may well get attitude back from the person at the counter. If I get past these issues and approach with a smile and a willingness to understand that she or he may make close to minimum wage and would rather be home watching American Idol than trying to understand what the British guy is saying with his thick accent then I may encounter a pleasant, friendly and helpful car rental clerk.
Of course we can’t always be happy and full of fun but if we constantly radiate negative feelings it gets harder for other people to help us. I have a couple of friends who’ve each been unemployed for nearly two years. They are both older and each in their own way is a kind of outsider. At first, I gave them contacts for jobs and freelance work but then I stopped. Although it was natural for them to be depressed, the negativity that I seemed to get when I offered any advice or support—“that’s not going to work,” “I already tried that,” “At my age I can’t,” or “I’m not working for that amount of money,”—made me decide to give up. I was receiving resistance in response to my help so I gave up. It’s sad but now if I see a job opportunity I am most likely going to ignore it and not pass it along to these two friends. They are sending out bad feelings and now they are receiving them too.
If we believe we’re outsiders and communicate that to people we meet, then chances are that we’ll receive the feedback that we are indeed outsiders. If we say we’re failures people will often believe us. Strangely enough, if we say we’re successes then the same people will often believe us just as strongly.
A good friend of mine, Paul, is an expert in computer networks. He’s a little eccentric with his hobbies and ideas. He chooses to give people ammunition to make him a outsider and an unsuccessful one at that. He can be very friendly, has a good heart and is kind to animals, children and seniors. But he will say things that push people away. He spent most of one evening discussing how he doesn’t need people because he has the Internet. The people who were with him labeled him a outsider. He failed to see that his statement was illogical because he had just spent an enjoyable time discussing interesting ideas with a group of people. No people equals no discussion. He chose to give the group an impression that highlighted his negatives rather than his positives.
It all comes down to passion. Passion is the fire inside you. It’s what gets you up in the morning, makes you cry, laugh, sing with joy or scream with anger. For my clients it also came down to passion. The spiritual practices they followed all led to a fire in themselves. It led them to these questions:
“What do I care about?”
“What is important to me?”
“What makes me happy to be alive?”
Passion will never lead to these thoughts.
“What do other people want from me?”
“What makes me a good boy or girl?”
“What would look good on my resume?”
Passion is the stuff of life. Take the time to reflect on what is important to you. Remember your dreams so you can analyze them and find out what’s on your mind. Draw on your subconscious to find out what really makes you tick. Through my journey I found out I was passionate about writing, about food, about travel and about my friends. I saw how passion drives me forward.
The true round peg doesn’t have to work at being who they are. Life shouldn’t be a painful trek but a smooth voyage. If you are passionate about your beliefs, nothing is false. You can truly enjoy yourself.
An artist known for being an outsider puts it this way:
“…Accepting myself just came naturally. I knew that God made me who I was and was confident that it was for a reason. I also knew that accomplishment, creativity, having life’s adventures, etc. was more important to me that what others thought about me.”
A friend of mine is a successful executive, managing a division for a large company. He is great with people. He does a good job. He makes an impressive salary. However, he always wants to do something creative. He always wanted to work in the media. He always wanted to do something different but he was brought up in a family who told him that his responsibility was to provide for his family. His parents certainly didn’t want him to be miserable, but he wanted to please his parents. This set up a real dilemma for him.
Management is not his passion. He has to work really hard to be good. He works long hours. He gets stressed. He is afraid that one day someone will realize that he is not in the right job. He does a good job of disguising who he is, but it comes with a down side. He gets tired. He gets sick. He cannot enjoy his free time, because he is always worrying about his work life. It’s sad. In contrast is this story which shows what passion can do in your career.
I was the only female sales rep and not wanted by the team. The Director hired me and the Sales Manager was angry. He told all of the men in the office to not speak to me in the hope of forcing me out… I set out to prove I could indeed sell. Telling me I can’t do something seems to motivate me. The proof came by the 4th month when I became the Top Producer of the office!
Elinor Stutz, CEO, Smooth Sale, LLC, San Francisco Bay Area, CA