Radical Self-Acceptance. Woo-hoo! Let’s start by unpacking this term:
I’m going to get really visual on you here: When I hear the word “radical” as it relates to self-acceptance, I envision this vibrant sunny yellow-orange, cell-level, transformational explosion of change that covers my body in warmth and goodness. I think about a breaking apart only to fuse back together--like a radical breaking from a group with the higher purpose of creating more connectedness.
Jesus is the example coming to my mind right now. He was considered this radical who turned away from the norms of society with the greater purpose of bringing all people closer together and into greater understanding of themselves and one another. He experienced separateness to bring the world a greater sense of wholeness.
The actual definitions of “radical” include “extreme changes,” and “varying from the usual” (according to Merriam-Webster). “Radical” is also used in the medical world to define surgeries that “remove the root of a disease.”
When we practice Radical Self-Acceptance we vary from the norm of separateness, disconnection and/or self-loathing--what our world has come to know and is now finding its way out of.
The root that Radical Self-Acceptance removes is the sense that we were ever separate, broken or less than in the first place.
Applying these ideas to self-acceptance gives you a better picture of what’s actually happening as you bring this process in your life. Radical Self-Acceptance is a breaking apart to come back together. It is this lasting, deep-rooted, cell-level, soul-awakening change. It’s the process of reclaiming your rejected parts and returning to existence in unconditional love.
Like I said, it’s a big term...but it’s kind of exciting, right? The thought of inviting this kind of self-acceptance into your life: How would your life be different?
We all came into the world with this Radical Self-Acceptance, unconditional love, free of judgement. But as we grow, our environment shapes who we are, molding us to be what the world expects us to be. When we’re young, we start to separate ourselves as individuals, form our identities, develop our egos, understand which parts of us are “acceptable” and which are not. This process of becoming is confusing. To make sense of it, we’ll often choose whatever the dominant input is. When the dominant input is at odds with who we really are, we reject parts of ourselves and unconsciously develop this sense of separateness--that who we are is not good enough for the world or others.
By adulthood, this separateness is what our bodies and minds know. And to so many people, this underlying root is so unconscious. The underlying belief that we’re not good enough, not worthy, not loveable, not deserving is what becomes familiar and this unconscious “truth” perpetuates disconnection from yourself and others.
But here’s the bright side of that separateness: As evolving humans, we’re meant to experience this separateness on our journey back to wholeness, perhaps a greater, more evolved wholeness than we came into the world with in the first place. And this evolution occurs through Radical Self-Acceptance.
When we begin to practice Radical Self-Acceptance, our bodies, souls and minds experience integration on all levels, awakening a new consciousness. We begin to re-learn the unconditional acceptance and love that we came into this world with.
There are 5 Key Components of this Radical Self-Acceptance process that I’ve identified through my own experience. Each piece is needed as you do the work of integration: recognizing, owning, and accepting (even admiring) your rejected parts.
I’ll list the components and then discuss each. Included with each discussion is a simple challenge to bring each component more and more into your life so that you begin to experience radical self-acceptance on the regular:
Integrating Shadow & Light
Clear Limiting Decisions
Forgiveness and gratitude are foundations in this process. As we live our experience, we’re going to mess up and make mis-takes (learning opportunities). Forgiveness is one of the most powerful transformation agents we can use throughout our self-acceptance process so that as we make mis-takes, we know how to free ourselves by taking the learnings, letting go of the hurt and moving on. We are able to practice compassion for ourselves and others. And compassion is what underlies all of this Radical Self-Acceptance work. You need compassion for exactly who you are and where you’re at in your experience.
I had a yoga teacher once who said “Grieving is like pooping.” As healthy human beings, we have a bowel movement everyday. And grief, like forgiveness, is something we need to release everyday. This may seem like a silly comparison but, think about it: There’s always something stuck in our bodies, some disappointment, anger, sadness, fear, etc.--either from the day before, the past weeks, or from way long ago that needs to be regularly let go of.
Otherwise, we feel “backed up” or “blocked.” These stuck memories and emotions create blocks that prevent us from connecting authentically with ourselves, with others, with our creativity, sometimes totally unbeknownst to us!
These blocks may even show up as physical symptoms, like GERD, headaches, backaches, other types of physical ailments.
Challenge: Get Unblocked! Take 5 minutes to practice forgiveness everyday. Start by making three lists: 1) People who’ve hurt you; 2) People who should have been there for you and weren’t, and 3) All the forgiveness you need to give yourself (for hurting others, for hurting yourself, for carrying shame, self-doubt, anything). Once you have your three lists, you can download the full practice here! It’s really short, simple and sweet--and you’re going to feel your body release weight each time you do it. #happysigh
Gratitude goes hand in hand with forgiveness. As you’re letting go of what no longer serves you, you may feel an initial heaviness as you bring what was unconscious to the surface. It helps to recognize all the good that you have, all the good inside you and around you, all the good in your life. Practicing gratitude helps us take our experience into perspective. There’s always something good in the bad, like there’s light in the shadow (which we’ll talk about next!).
Practicing gratitude also increases our ability for compassion, first and foremost towards ourselves and in-turn towards others. Gratitude encourages us to be grateful for where we are, who we are and all the experiences that have brought us to where we are in this moment. This simple practice can be unbelievably powerful in nurturing that Radical Self-Acceptance..
Challenge: Start a gratitude practice--either in the morning or at night (or both!). That’s it! Simply write three things about yourself or your experience that day/morning that you’re grateful for. Write especially the most mundane and seemingly simple things. If you’re just starting out with a gratitude practice, I definitely recommend physically writing what you’re grateful for!
Integrating Shadow & Light
The work of Radical Self-Acceptance comes as we integrate our shadow and light. This is a big topic I’m going to way simplify for the purposes of this blog post! Very basically, the psychologist Carl Jung defines our shadow self as “the person you would rather not be.” The shadow self has to do with those “rejected parts” I mentioned earlier.
It’s the ugly, the evil, the mean, the selfish, the greedy, the deceitful, the “darkness” that lives inside you. But the exciting part about this darkness is that it has light in it too. And when we expose the darkness and stop hiding from it, just this simple practice can feel freeing, liberating, like weight has been lifted from your body. This is a key part in the cell level, transformational change of Radical Self-Acceptance.
Challenge: Start by making a list of all the parts of yourself you don’t like, the parts you fear, the parts you wish you didn’t have. And then think about the gifts that are in these “dark parts.” What do they allow you to do? What good do they bring to your life?
For example, if you see yourself as manipulative and this is a shadow side you’d rather hide from the world: You barely want to recognize it yourself, let alone admit to others that you’re known to be manipulative. You may have even tried everything under the sun to ensure that you never act on this manipulative quality. In every instance, you practice altruism. But the manipulation still shows up. People notice it. It seems to sneak out of nowhere.
This is why: What you resist, persists. And “What you don’t own, owns you.” (Jan Smith). Think about any quality in yourself that you see as bad, that you deny is part of you, or try your darndest to be “better”...does that quality go away? Probably not. In fact, you may have already seen how it only gets stronger over time. It seems like it’s always hiding beneath the surface, waiting to crawl...or roar...or jump out at you (or some unsuspecting person).
Here’s the alternative with shadows (and the only alternative that leads to that Radical Self-Acceptance): You recognize, own and accept that you are manipulative. And then, you recognize how being manipulative is something that is actually helpful to you or helpful to the world. Maybe the light side of being manipulative is that you are persuasive. You can share your ideas with the world in a way that entices other people to listen. And if you’re talking about something that is good for the world, like how to love yourself more, could it be helpful to be persuasive in these messages--when self-love for some people is hard to fully understand or practice?
Think of the light side. Think of the gift that comes from the dark. It’s there. And as you continue to practice recognizing it, you begin to own and accept your darkness. It’s no longer as scary or threatening.
Throughout this process of radical self-acceptance, you’re also taking consistent respons-ability for your experience. This is the ability that you have to respond to life in a way that supports the person you are capable of becoming. Let’s break that down! As humans, we are full of infinite possibilities. Possibilities that we can’t even fathom.
In the holographic model of the world, every piece of the universe contains the intelligence of the whole, meaning that each individual person contains the imprint of the entire universe within oneself. As Deepak Chopra said, “We are not in the world, but the world is within us.” We are infinite.
Radical Self-Acceptance is part of our evolution to a greater human self, the realization of all we are truly capable of. Who you’re capable of becoming is not determined by how you came into this world or the experiences you’ve had along the way. And once you know this, you can respond to situations in a way that chooses possibility over what’s been comfortable or known to you or keeping you stuck in the past. The person you’re capable of becoming does not reside in the past.
As you integrate shadows and light, there's even greater opportunity to take respons-ability for your experience and the reality you want to create for your life. When you practice respons-ability, you are owning your experience, who you are and who you are becoming. This ownership is key to Radical Self-Acceptance.
Challenge: Set the intention to notice where in your day you can take more respons-ability for your experience. Notice where you might be playing victim or not owning your authentic self. Notice where you hide your truth or where you let others step over you. Notice where you might behave in a way that self-sabotages (your actions bring an unsatisfactory or hurtful outcome). At the end of the day, journal about these moments and how you can respond differently, in a way that empowers your authentic self, next time these situations occur.
Clearing Limiting Decisions
Lastly, a key part of this process is recognizing and clearing limiting decisions as they arise. These are decisions that we made about ourselves in either this lifetime or before that perpetuate those stories of unworthiness, lack, or undeservingness.
These decisions sound like: I’m not smart enough; I’ll always get left behind; People never understand who I really am; I don’t have what it takes to be a leader, etc.
You can do the work on your own to lessen the hold of these beliefs through taking aligned action. Or you can energetically clear these limiting decisions by working with a trained coach or healer.
Challenge: 1) Keep a running list of limiting decisions. 2) To take aligned action, you must identify what the possible secondary gain of each limiting decision could be. This is the positive benefit that you get from letting this decision influence your life and current decisions. It could be something like believing the old decision keeps you safe, ensures you don’t fail, or at least gives you that illusion of control/safety. 3) Next, you’ll reframe the limiting decision into something positive. For example, if you’re working with the limiting decision of “I’m not creative enough to be a teacher” (this was one of my old ones), then your reframe would sound like: “I am creative enough to be a teacher” or “I am becoming more creative.” For those intense decisions that we hold very near and dear, sometimes it feels better or more truthful to use the progressive tense like “am becoming” versus “I am.” Going straight to the opposite (“I am”) can be unhelpful with those really strong “not” decisions because the difference is too far from what we currently believe. You’re looking to create the bridge, which is actually creating a new neural pathway in your brain. What solidifies the new neural pathway is action. 4) Once you’ve identified reframes, identify the little actions you can take to make the reframe a reality. With the example of “I’m not creative enough to be a teacher” an action I wrote was “I can create something new everyday.” I identified a list of possible creations (and then added to them as I went). 5) Lastly, you want to identify the feelings that you get when you’re living the reframe. How do you feel when the reframe is your truth? Focus on these feelings as you take the action towards making the reframe part of your reality.
Enjoy the process! Welcome the learnings as you go. Find gratitude for exactly where you are. You are opening to Radical Self-Acceptance and inviting this transformation into your life.
I’d love to hear if you implement any of these challenges! Let me know what changes you see!
If you’d like to dive deeper into your own wholing, radical self-acceptance process, let’s connect on Instagram at @wilpeacefulfree.