I’m delighted to be able to share with you the first installment of one of my new booklets, “Silly Me! A Path to Self-Acceptance.” It includes the table of contents, the introduction, and the first chapter. Each subsequent week the next chapter will be included in a posted blog that can be found at the Lifepossibilitiesfulfilled.com website’s BLOG page. So here’s the first installment!
Silly Me! A Path to Self-Acceptance
with Steven Howard
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – The First Step: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff……………………….
Chapter 2 – Taking a Closer Look at the Wheat…………………………………………
Chapter 3 – Judgment and How it Shows Up in Our Lives……………………………….
Chapter 4 –Ways to Suspend and Transform Judgment…………………………………
Chapter 5 – Lighten Up a Bit! Life Can Be a Hilarious Journey!………………………………..
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
The declaration, “Silly me!” came to me several years ago during a time of intense inner work when I was still dealing with a driver behavior and a false belief centered around the idea I had to do things perfectly. In my world of growing up, there seemed to be a formula for getting along with others and being happy and it was a very simple one: Please other people! And do as you’re told! But, as it turned out, it wasn’t so simple a task as I’d thought it would be because, try as I did, I rarely felt safe around the people I was trying to please. And I can’t say that I ever felt “happy” as I currently know that to be. Today I would probably choose another term for it, like content or at peace or joy-filled. Or maybe free. Free to be who I AM, warts and all.
That’s not to say I didn’t experience moments when I was able to let loose and just be spontaneous, however that showed up. There were plenty of those times, thank God, because those were the moments that let me know I was lovable even when, and perhaps especially because, I was being silly and that sometimes meant just being me and saying or doing whatever came to mind at the time with no fear of judgment or rejection! Those times were when I was with a handful of close friends during my middle and high school years. But behind the scenes, at home, and in my fear-filled ventures from platonic friendships into the more intimate territory of romance and feelings of attraction, I was stepping into murky waters that reflected into my life hidden fears and beliefs about myself and about those in the world around me. I didn’t trust me as being adequate and I sure as in hell didn’t trust others! I knew absolutely nothing about The Art & Practice of Living with Nothing and No One Against You (published by The Q Effect Publications) in those days.
In a nutshell, I was living a half-life, one that kept my life journey on a very narrow path, one very much based upon beliefs and fears that blocked my ability to see who I really was as a spiritual being having a human experience. And because I couldn’t fully see me, I also was unable to see you as you truly are. I couldn’t see past the image of you I was seeing, which was really a reflection of me, one I wasn’t yet ready to look at and claim long enough to become awakened to the Truth. Why? The truth be told, I didn’t like who I saw!
This booklet is an expose of sorts. A sharing of my journey into self-acceptance, including the good, the bad and the ugly! But with an occasional light and humorous touch I hope will offer you opportunities to chuckle or smirk, at my expense because I’ll be laughing and shaking my head at the same time as I capture my memories, thoughts and feelings, and put them into words. And maybe you’ll even see a little bit of you in this sharing and laugh at yourself as well as experience moments of well-earned pride about all the many little and big ways you’ve grown and how you are already making a difference in the world. That is my hope, for I intend to share the tools and steps I took to get me to this place where I am today and also share why I believe they work for me and can work for you.
The First Step: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff
“Self-acceptance is a way of viewing oneself compassionately, without condemnation or justification. It is a starting point in life which makes other things possible. It celebrates the fullness of joy of being alive and of being who we are: accepting ourselves, however, does not mean embracing our neuroses or bad habits and celebrating them as if they were virtues. On the contrary, self-acceptance involves loving ourselves enough to accept painful truths about ourselves. . . . Self-acceptance is, at its simplest, the experience of one’s self, here and now, as a complete human being, with all the glories and problems that condition entails.”
― Don Richard Riso, Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery
The idea behind the title of this chapter came from some unrelated research I was doing to better understand “processed” versus “unprocessed grains” since I avoid consuming processed or refined grains and wanted to know more about the difference between them.
I learned that during the harvesting of the wheat crop, the whole grains are separated from the chaff/stalks, with these residue materials being used for animal feed or for renourishing the soil for future crop plantings. And I could see how that process could relate to what I would ask the reader to do as he/she views material in their lives and bring it into the light of curiosity to determine what can perhaps be dismissed from further inquiry because it no longer plays a part in their life.
When I came upon the diagram on the next page of a whole grain, and read the explanation of what happens to the grain during processing, I was inspired to draw an analogy between our “whole being” and a grain of wheat by correlating the four parts of a grain (the Bran, Aleurone Layer, Endosperm, and Germ) with aspects of our spiritual evolvement and the finding of our true selves. And as I contemplated that idea further, it came to me that there was also a parallel between the refinement process grains go through and what we go through in trying to find our way in life.
All grains start life as whole grains. In their natural state growing in the ﬁelds, whole grains are the entire seed of a plant. This seed (which industry calls a “kernel”) is made up of four key edible parts – the bran, the aleurone, the germ, and the endosperm – protected by an inedible husk that protects the kernel from assaults by sunlight, pests, water, and disease.
So, I invite you to take a moment and do a quick self-assessment and ask yourself, with the intention of identifying challenges you’ve become aware of over a lifetime: Which of these challenges do I believe I’ve overcome?
We can reasonably claim to have overcome a recurring challenge or situation when we are no longer triggered into a reaction to it (we don’t feel the need to defend ourselves or blame another person or group). And that overcoming doesn’t generally happen overnight. At least that’s been my experience.
Brain chemistry science supports the idea that it takes a fairly consistent repetition of a new pattern of responses to situations—that in the past would have triggered an instant unconscious reaction—to become our authentic way of being. Even then, an old underlying false belief may surface but we are consciously aware of the thought and are more practiced in the art of immediately connecting with our Spiritual essence, with our divine self where we have access to unconditional love, patience, and understanding.
While later on we will take a closer look at the effect stress and fear have in our lives, let me just say here that both serve as blocks to our divine connection, taking us out of the present moment and into the past or future just long enough to slip into our reactive mode. It is at just such moments that “Silly me!” can serve as a way of avoiding self-judgment and as a way of acknowledging that we’ve “missed the mark” and that it’s not the end of the world! It also serves as a reminder that we’re not perfect, that our imperfections are also a part of who we are as human beings. I regularly say this to myself whenever I slip into old ways of being that I know don’t serve me or anyone else. Just saying it aloud reminds me I don’t need to be judgmental, that I can accept myself, “warts and all!” And I usually find a smile creep across my face (which occasionally prompts frowns or confused expressions on the faces of others who may still be dealing with the issue of judgment themselves).
Having hopefully opened the way for you to begin some non-judgmental self-reflection, I invite you to take out your Companion Notebook to this booklet and jot down any challenges you think you have overcome on page 1. Keeping in mind the idea of separating the wheat from the chaff, we can look upon the items written down as chaff, something that may still prove to have historical value but not something you need to spend further time examining while you’re reading through this booklet.
Now comes the part where you ask yourself the next important question: What are the challenges I continue to face in my life? Here you’re being asked to identify fears, concerns and worrisome thoughts that surface in your mind, in your head, even though you may never speak about them aloud, even to yourself. As such thoughts and memories surface, it is important to write them down in the next section of your notebook before a natural inclination to bury them kicks in.
Let’s face it, most of us have grown up believing we should “keep our cards close to the chest,” meaning keep whatever it is to yourself and don’t share it with others unless you’re sure they can be trusted. And even admitting these things to ourselves can be very stressful and even painful. Often such thoughts invite us to feel shame and guilt. And the old adage, “Out of sight? Out of mind!” comes to mind. So, we’re inclined to bury the thought or the image back into the subconscious part of our mind, leaving us, nonetheless, disconnected from an aspect of ourselves and from others in our outer world, even sometimes experiencing a period of depression. Yes, I’m speaking from my own experience as well as from my academic and experiential training in the psychological arena of understanding human behavior.
While I’ve become more open to the moment these days, I still can occasionally find myself triggered to “hear myself talk,” and some of the “self-talk” which used to come up when I’d been thrown off center can still prompt me to shake my head in dismay at how critical I can be of myself. Thoughts like “There you go again!” or “It serves you right!” Or here’s an oldie but goodie: “You still haven’t learned your place!” And “Maybe it’s time to toss in the towel!” They are all put-downs or invitations to become a victim and give up on life as we know it, and for me they can all be traced back to things I heard growing up or things that I began telling myself when I was older enough to know better. And because it is painful to experience the feelings that are triggered with such verbal put-downs, our natural inclination as human beings is to project blame on someone or something in the outside world. Even though in the present moment none of these putdowns were actually spoken by anyone, we interpret what was said or not said as a criticism and move into a “flight or fight” mode and the walls go up. We’re now experiencing ourselves as victims and the enemy is out there!
Let me again reiterate: These reactions, these false beliefs, are trying to protect us from a world we believe is against us. So, what we need to do is embrace them as misguided aspects of our human condition. We begin to find our way into freedom by embracing all of who we are, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And that is what we will be doing in the next chapter.