It starts with acceptance
One challenge that most people in therapy face is taking a clear-eyed look at their own flaws. The human mind is remarkably talented at helping us deny, ignore, and shift the blame when it comes to things we may not want to admit about ourselves. Even people with depression and other conditions which lower self-esteem have lines they won’t cross when it comes to acknowledging personal flaws.
However, when we accept ourselves as we are, we can forgive ourselves for our shortcomings and take steps to be better and healthier. Acceptance doesn’t mean we condone our unkind or destructive tendencies, it means we see them as we are, which allows us to empower ourselves to overcome them.
Think of a common relationship problem – score keeping. We might look at people we don’t like and say to ourselves that when considering whether to pitch in on a project, they only think about what’s in it for them. We don’t even like accepting their help because we dread the day when they call in a favor. They think that someone is always “winning” in some sort of thoughtfulness competition.
Yet when we display the same behavior, we frame it as a personal code. It is right to expect that one good turn deserves another. We like it when people notice how selfless we are, and if they feel a little indebted to us, well, we can hardly blame them – look at how kind we are.
A healthier approach, of course, is to help others because of the inherent worth of behaving morally and to ease the burdens of people around us. Meanwhile, it is fine to accept help sometimes, not because someone owes us one, but because we are people who have value and are worthy of love and respect. In the same way, sometimes the right choice may be to decline someone who would take advantage of our generosity.
That’s all easy to say but can be hard to do.
We can’t make any changes until we recognize our own shortcomings. Maybe it isn’t score keeping, maybe it’s being passive aggressive in a different way. Perhaps we procrastinate too much, or yell too much, or drink too much. Maybe we lie, either generally or about a specific thing we’re ashamed of.
Before we can make any progress, we have to notice what about ourselves is holding us back. Sometimes we’re so used to ignoring or explaining away our bad behavior that it can be helpful to get some perspective from a neutral outsider – a therapist.
Once people recognize their shortcomings, a common impulse is to blame someone else for “making” them behave a certain way. A person may say, “If you had my parents, you’d act like this, too.” However, this is counter-productive. We can recognize the influence others have had on us while empowering ourselves to change. But it will take time and effort.
If a scorekeeper wants to improve personal relationships, he might want to start noticing times when he’s putting tally marks in someone’s column or looking down on a friend or family member who “owes” him for his past kindness. This shift doesn’t happen all at once or overnight. It takes consistent, long-term work to rewire our self-defeating behavior.
That means accepting ourselves as we are every day. The goal is not to beat ourselves up, but to have a better understanding of the way we think and behave. With time, this uncolored introspection may surprise us. We will notice that the shortcomings we set out to work on aren’t holding us back so much anymore.
Thank you for your continued support in helping us provide quality care treatment!
Dr. Kimberly S. Benson LMHC, CEO & Clinical Director
Mr. David Forestier CAC, COO
Mr. Cole Young CAC, CFO