It is human nature to want to be seen and be accepted just as we are. We have a desire for others to approve of us and in turn we want to approve of them, unconditionally, accepting who they are.
But do we really?
Even though I have been on this spiritual and personal development journey for quite some time, there are occasions when life throws something at you to show you that you aren’t actually practicing what you’re preaching.
It was parent’s evening last night and my husband and I went along with our daughter to see the teachers about picking her GCSE exam options. When we got there we were handed a pack with all the details of the courses, and as we settled down the head of her year group told us about the English Baccalaureate which the school wanted pupils to work towards. They said that they had placed recommendation letters in the pack if they thought your child was currently achieving at a high enough level for them to follow this route.
We, as every other parent did, flicked through the pack. But I didn’t spot a letter. Oh well, I thought it doesn’t really matter. I am still proud of my daughter. If I am honest with myself though, I was a little disappointed.
After the talk we had the opportunity to speak to teachers from each subject so we could start helping our daughter make choices about which subjects to study. As we were waiting to speak to a History teacher, our daughter bumped into one of her best friends. After a brief conversation with the other mum, she asked, ‘did Mae get a recommendation letter?’
Suddenly I felt the kick of that question and the slight disappointment of having to say, ‘No, I don’t think so’. As she talked about going off to inquire about the subjects that her daughter would need to complete the English BaccalaureateI I could feel my heart sink a little…suddenly we weren’t quite good enough.
I hid this feeling from my husband and my daughter, but it was there and I could feel it. And I know it said more about me than my daughter.
The interesting thing was when we got home and opened the pack up properly, there was the recommendation letter.
That’s when it hit me…it was almost as though for a short while my acceptance of her was based on conditions. That she had to be good enough. That she had to compare favourably with others. That I would be happy with her if she met the grade…
Now that was only a fleeting moment of conditional acceptance, but it still shocked me. I’m a strong advocate of accepting others as they are. But it made me think that we if we can have conditional acceptance of others, no matter how small or short lived, we must do the same for ourselves.
So I would like to invite you to think about the times when you have placed conditions on yourself in order to feel acceptable. Did you have to get the job with the fancy title, or a pay rise, or a promotion, a bigger house, or did you just have to feel that you were doing better than others around you?
The subtlety of conditioning isn’t always apparent at first. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. So many of us were conditioned during our formative years that we would be good enough if we did what we were told, if we were quiet, or if we achieved good grades etc.
As we reach adulthood we take over these conditions from our care-givers and talk to ourselves in the same way…berating, belittling and putting ourselves down.
It shouldn’t be this way. So, when you understand the conditions you are placing upon yourself and others, in order to feel acceptable…you can bring about the process of change and learn to support yourself in more nourishing ways.
For, as they say, you are worth it!
I was around nineteen or twenty when I was handed my first self help book. At the time I didn't even realise books like this existed!!! For the previous four or five years I had struggled with coming to terms with the death of my dad two weeks after my fifteenth birthday. My confidence and self esteem was on the floor. These books were just what I needed and I soon began devouring book after book.
Personal development books helped me to increase my self esteem and confidence and I noticed a gradual change in the way I felt about myself. My addiction to personal development grabbed hold of me from then on.
Within a year or so I noticed that the way I felt about life and myself seemed to plateau. The books seemed to have stopped making me feel any better...so I stopped reading (for a while at least).
Looking back on my journey I understand how these books had an immediate impact on my incredibly low self esteem. I can also understand why they stopped taking effect after a while.
What happened was that my brain was soaking up knowledge like a sponge...but there it stayed...in my brain. I knew what to do. I knew how I was supposed to feel. Yet I didn't change.
Years later when I began my intensive personal development journey with coaches, tutors and mentors, I had a revelation. Everything I had learnt was held intellectually only...I wasn't living most of it. And if I wasn't living it, how on earth could it make a difference to my life?
Having a tutor and mentor made a massive difference in my life. I learnt how to let go of anger, resentment, fear, frustration. I could start to forgive. I could really start to grow and fall in love with life again.
I have seen this change in my coaching clients too. Many come to me having read many personal development books over the years. It only seems to take a handful of sessions before I am asked how on earth coaching is creating such a positive change in their lives.
My answer is...you are not just knowing the information, but actually living it. And that makes all the difference.