3 Ways To Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness
I used to think that my ability to relax and enjoy life would come once I got everything in my life in the right order: my career, relationships, even hobbies. I worked endlessly towards perfection, and no matter how good the outside seemed, that relaxation and joy never appeared. On the inside, I was miserable.
Then I was introduced to four principles that changed my life.
You are responsible for your own happiness.
Your outer experience is a reflection of what’s going on inside.
What’s going on inside is usually a reflection of the quality of your mind.
The quality of your mind is directly related to how deeply you accept yourself.
The first time I heard these principles was the first time I felt authentically empowered. That is until the realization that I could no longer blame my parents, girlfriend, teachers, friends or anyone else for my own unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Underneath my complaints about what others were “doing to me” was a need to accept myself. I needed to take full responsibility for my experience and change my life from the inside out. The path to self-acceptance certainly hasn’t been a straight shot, but here are three ways I managed the journey and instilled these principles in my everyday life.
Own Up To Your Part
At first, my ego resisted this idea like hell. It’s so much easier to blame the outside world than it is to change our inside thoughts and behaviors. But I couldn’t ignore that what was bothering me was actually only my perception of what was happening, not what actually was happening. For example, as a kid, I was self-conscious and scared of life. I had an extremely critical family where “perfection” was the name of the game. Growing up, I constantly judged myself for how uncool and athletically un-skillful I was; my hair, my body, etc. I had so many judgments!
The less I appreciated myself, the less I was appreciated—but I didn’t have the awareness to see it that way; I just saw others not appreciating me. But the acceptance and appreciation I craved had to come from within. I needed to reclaim the parts of myself that I had totally abandoned and see the good already within me. I learned to see life with different eyes. I’m talking about the eyes of my soul, the eyes of a pure, loving being. Self-acceptance holds no judgments or self-recriminations. But this doesn’t mean bypassing healthy regret or letting myself off the hook. It’s about radical self-honesty and abstaining from expectations based on the outmoded and unconscious beliefs I’ve been lugging around for too many years.
It’s about forgiving what happened. And what didn’t.
Let Go of the Past
To paraphrase Lily Tomlin, it’s about abandoning all hope for a better past. I’ve learned that when things don’t go the way we think they should, it’s an invitation to get even stronger at self-acceptance. It may not feel like it in the moment, but every opportunity to see a part of ourselves that we still haven’t accepted is a blessing. Of course, this doesn’t mean condoning the harmful behavior of others, but it does mean that we forgive ourselves for the negative judgments we placed on the event. Only then may we accept ourselves and the circumstances of our lives with a clear intent to make peace and move forward.
For me, I released the painful perception that my athletic skills were not good enough. In truth, they are actually above average. I’ve completed a full Ironman and six half-Ironmen. I am also an amateur club golf champion. When I finally appreciated my accomplishments, it was as if I received permission to stop waiting for someone or something outside me to validate my existence. And what a relief it was to fully absorb that truth!
Celebrate Your Unique Gifts
My sense now is that who I am is a collection of imperfect selves. It is because of those imperfections that I’m divinely human and lovable no matter what. So who am I when I am not judging myself? I am a divine being having a human experience. I am a whole and complete man with a big heart. I am a peaceful and lovable person, doing his best to thrive, to be kind, and to care for others. And so are you.
So often we work backwards by striving the external world – jobs, relationships, money – not realizing that the most effective step we can take to change every single aspect of our lives is to place kindness, love and acceptance inward, toward our own human experience! I, for one, would much rather live from the mind and heart of self-acceptance, than from judgment and criticism. Wouldn’t you?
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