Even more important to our emotional health than the language we use to describe everyday situations are the terms we use to characterize the most important person in our lives — ourselves. Every single day, we use words like jerk, dope, fool, moron and even worse to define ourselves. Sometimes we use language like this in our heads, and sometimes say it under our breath or even out loud as though we have sentenced ourselves to ongoing perpetual judgment. The problem is that we create a no-win situation resulting in going through the day with our self-worth rising and falling in relation to how we think our “ideal” self should function. We rate our individual attributes and arbitrary traits, none of which could ever define intrinsic or self-worth, and yet we behave as though they do.
Do you think green is good or bad? You might say something is more or less green, or that green is bad for some purposes, or even that you don’t like green. What you can’t honestly say is that green is intrinsically good or bad. By the same token, we can’t accurately and honestly rate ourselves, our essence as good or bad. We do, though, and cause ourselves great emotional disturbance by doing it.
Do yourself a favor. Refuse to rate yourself. When you catch yourself doing it, chuckle, and correct the internal language to more accurately reflect the true situation. Instead of thinking (or saying): “What did you do that for, you dumb jerk!” Try: “Next time, try to focus more on what you’re doing.” The first remark makes a general statement about your whole persona, while the second merely acknowledges that perhaps you weren’t “there” as much as you should have been. See the difference?
This concept is part of what we call Unconditional Self-Acceptance, or USA, and you will see it referenced in several of the upcoming chapters. What we shoot for in USA is a complete acceptance of ourselves for no other reason than that we are alive, and we have the capacity to enjoy our existence. We all have various traits, and we behave differently, depending upon our experiences and how we judge the immediate situation.
The important thing to remember is that we are not our behavior. We can assess our behavior, along with our various traits, but what we cannot honestly do is evaluate something as diverse and complex as ourselves. We have many traits, but we cannot judge our entire selves on the basis of any one of them. We can decide to do that, but if we do, we invariably end-up causing ourselves emotional upset as a result.
No one else can give us self-acceptance — it can only come from ourselves. The best part is that we’re free to choose it at any time.