For Valentine’s Day I Want You to Take a Good Look…and admire your creation! You have worked on this masterpiece forever! Perfecting, polishing, tuning, and repairing! You deserve to be acknowledged for what you have done. Make peace with actions you took and decisions you made. All of it lead to who you are and the life you are living today. Give yourself the gift of admiration. In fact, give yourself a hand and show you some love!
One of my sons is a master at loving and accepting himself no matter what. I wish I had his talent. I spent much of my young life in self-criticism. It felt bad to even look inside my own heart because I was afraid I would find more pain and judgment there. But then, something changed when I learned how to look at myself with appreciation and wonder, instead of criticism. It was a blessing! I still have to re-learn it again and again. It takes time, believe me! I give thanks to my son for the reminder.
In “The One Minute Parent” book I outline how my kids have a daily game to earn points with tasks, decisions and attitudes. Last Saturday, I noticed my son had not been doing his kitchen job (clearing the table) for several days in a row. He receives a natural consequence (loss of points) so I knew there was no need to scold or punish. But I was just curious so I asked him, “I noticed you haven’t been clearing the table this week, why?”
He looked at me for a long time and said completely without guile, remorse or shame, “I think I’m just lazy ‘cuz it seems like a lot of stuff to put away.”
I was so proud! Here is a boy who was able to do what I spent many years trying, learning and struggling to do…accept a weakness, be totally honest about it, and still feel ok with himself!
My heart swelled and I looked at him with admiration. “Thank you for being honest.” He nodded and went back to drawing.
Now, this may seem unlikely but actually he has been more willing since that conversation to help out in the kitchen. He even helped me bake cinnamon rolls yesterday! What I learned is he thrives when he feels accepted and acknowledged. Instead, of criticizing or trying to change him, I accepted his weakness (doesn’t like to do chores) and acknowledged him for his strength (honesty). As long as I do this, he is willing to play a game with me.
Seeing how this works with my son, I am using on myself, too. What if more and more I accept my weaknesses, and acknowledge myself for strengths, and for all the things I do that work throughout the day?
If I accept myself, it doesn’t have to mean I give up on changing. In fact, change is more likely to happen if I start from a place of self-acceptance and love. Feeling good makes me feel like playing. Playing is what matters.
In fact, ‘Game Theory’ is defined as the ‘study of how people behave in a strategic environment.’ Simply said, ‘people change their behavior when they are in a game.’ The secret to change yourself and others, seems to me to be to make it fun to play with you! Are you having fun with you?
If not, it could be that you want to learn how to play and be playful…or, maybe you’re playing the wrong game. Or, like many people you suffer from criticism or a negative mindset…focusing on what’s wrong rather than enjoying yourself…like most of us did when were children.
But growing up means you have to learn how to be accountable and act like a grownup. Here’s the rub…if we grow up by forcing ourselves to be serious and suppress joy, that way of being becomes a mindset, and a deeply entrenched habit. Eventually, will power gives out.
What if you can change your autopilot mode and reinvigorate yourself to be accountable, but not by force or fear, rather through play and playfulness. It can be done!
Arianna Huffington says, “Reprogramming the autopilot takes different amounts of time for each of us…Willpower alone is not enough. As a number of psychological studies have shown, willpower is a resource that gets depleted the more it’s used.”
More important than willpower, is willingness. Willingness to keep playing a game. Willingness to love and accept yourself. Willingness to get up and try again.
My son is willing to keep playing the game with me. And more important, I am still willing to play the game with me. I am because I have made readiness a practice. Now, I take a little time every day to explore my wishes, desires and actions. I do this through the lens of appreciation and acceptance.
An old friend used to joke whenever asked if he was ready, “I was born ready!”
Well, we were all born ready, and then some of us lost the readiness, but then some of us got it back, and then lost it again, and then got it back…
Do you want your readiness back? Start with appreciating yourself. You’ll be surprised what you find out you are ready for…once you feel good.