Missy is a dear friend. We stood side-by-side at the opening liturgy at a mountain retreat in New Mexico.
As I stood in silence before communion, my shortcomings and failures hit me like a tsunami. My impatience, the resentments I held, the people I’d hurt, those who had hurt me—and those I’d railed back at—or failed to speak to with love. They were all inside me like angry waves. I bit my top lip. Wiping my eyes with my fist, I pushed away the tears that drowned my face.
Then, as if an angel had nudged her, Missy touched my arm. She leaned toward me and whispered words that pierced my soul: “Don’t believe the lies.”
The words baptized me with truth. I felt free.
Missy was right. I’d become overwhelmed by my human imperfections. It was well beyond humility. The tsunami was shame. It told me I was bad. It turned my anger into fiery judgment of myself and others. But it was a lie.
Missy’s words became an aha moment—an epiphany—a lesson in self-acceptance. Years later, when my mind returns to shame, I often hear the words rise up in my heart again, “Don’t believe the lies.”
The Task of Self-Acceptance
Why is self-acceptance the hardest task of becoming fully human? Why does our self-acceptance meter range from somewhere between “I’m a superstar—a 10” to “I’m nothing but a failure—a negative 90?”
According to Professor Jennifer Crocker, Americans suffer from a low self-esteem crisis. In her article published in the Journal of Social Issues, Crocker states people often base their self-worth on external sources, such as job performance, academic achievement, the car they drive, the house they live in, or what others think of them. If we hang our self-acceptance hats on these external sources, we’re more likely to experience the ups and downs of low self-esteem and mental health issues.
Crocker believes external contingencies of self–worth—especially physical appearance—are unreliable as a basis of self-esteem. They result in stress, aggression, excessive drug and alcohol use, and disordered eating. These outside sources of temporary affirmation are often the cause of our ping-ponging self-acceptance meter.
The Inner Journey
But those who base their self-esteem on internal sources—such as being a virtuous person or adhering to moral standards—are more likely to experience higher levels of self-acceptance and inner peace, says Crocker. They don’t have to be right in the eyes of others to feel self-worth.
From a spiritual perspective, if we let others tell us who we are, we put on airs to meet their expectations—or, worse yet, attack others to protect ourselves and hide our shortcomings.
If we let the Source of Divine Being—God—tell us who we are on the inside, our self-esteem grows without being contingent upon others’ opinions or our accomplishments.
So how do we find healthy self-acceptance?
Meditation—a Pathway to Self-Acceptance
When we take time to get away from the noise and distractions, we enter a deeper inner space. We let our minds sink into our hearts. We connect with the Creator’s infinite wisdom and guidance. It’s as if we open a whole new pathway of listening for the Divine Whisper.
In meditation, our blood pressure lowers. We connect with our inner selves. We open our hearts. We experience love, inner peace, and wisdom.
Meditation doesn’t cost a dime. It’s a daily investment in ourselves. It’s the realization an Infinite Being loves and guides us, and we can connect with that Being. That Infinite Source of Love wants to communicate with us.
Tell Me Who I Am
It’s important to create an inner space for you and God to tell each other who you are.
Here’s a way:
1. Find a quiet place to be in solitude, alone with yourself and God
2. Light a candle
3. Close your eyes
4. Ask the Divine Presence to be with you
5. Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself. Focus your attention on your breathing
6. When you’re ready, ask, “What is my name for God? What word, phrase, or image comes to mind when I consider who God is to me?”
7. After a time, ask the Creator, “What’s your name for me, God? What word, phrase or image comes to your Divine Mind when you consider who I am to you?”
8. Sit in silence for a few more moments, savoring what you experienced. Receive it as gift. Lift it up with gratitude. Perhaps write down the words that came to you.
This practice gives us an inner picture of who we are. It helps us let go of the false images of ourselves that drive us toward unhealthy extremes on our self-acceptance meters. When practiced regularly, we are baptized with Truth. We integrate Missy’s wise words: “Don’t believe the lies.”
—brian j plachta