This week saw the start of a new course for me, Positive Mindfulness, combining Positive Psychology with Mindfulness. It is funny how things seem to align in your life; fitting with the belief that everything happens for a reason or that your teachers come at the right time. The reason I say this is because for the past while I have been working on my own self-acceptance and this week, I have worked with clients who needed this type of work and the focus of the first class of my course was self-awareness. Self-awareness is about recognising ourselves, who we are and what is happening to us, within us and around us, moment to moment. In the moments of self-exploration, we often come to acknowledge what we need.
One of the things I notice as a coach is the difficulty clients have with accepting things as they are, and over the years I have noticed that there is a pattern to this struggle. Although on the surface the struggle appears to be with external factors the truth is it is really with our own experience of ourselves.
I have spent much of my lie fearful of what other people would think, trying to be some, impossible, perfect human being, striving to get everything right and in the process filling myself with worry, regret, embarrassment and for me, toxic shame. This process comes from a feeling that only the perfect version of you is acceptable. That somehow if your flaws are seen no-one will like you, or worse love you. The irony is that we love people, flaws and all. Not one person on your life for whom you care deeply is without flaw and yet you love them anyway. You know how frustrating your children, partner, family and even friends can be sometimes but those things pale in comparison to the joy and love that fills your heart when you think of why you love them.
The difficulty we have with ourselves is not accepting that we are flawed too, this is very challenging if you have been raised in a narcissistic household, or of you felt love was conditional. The reality is that we are all flawed and when we embrace the dark side of who we are, the mess-ups, the mistakes, we can then be ok with others embracing them too.
When I work with the adult children of narcissists, they often associate their negative behaviour with who they are, thinking that a mistake is a representation of them somehow. I made a mistake therefore I am stupid. I was rude therefore I am a horrible person. These statements are simply not true, these are behaviours not character flaws and as behaviour they can be changed and may simply context dependent.
One of my most liberating moments was when I said out loud that ‘I am a horrible person and I am ashamed’. In that moment the world did not end, in fact I laughed at how foolish I had been to still think this as an adult. I realised I was ok with other people knowing this too, because you know what sometimes I am, because I do horrible things, but it does not mean I am not lovable, or special or wonderful sometimes. I am all of these things and more, good and bad. I am a rose with a missing petal, or a spot of mildew, beautiful none the less, just as nature intended, perfectly imperfect.
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