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We Deserve Love Even When We Do Things We Regret

Sad Woman

“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” ~Brené Brown

Do you have parts of yourself that you’d like to change? Maybe even parts of your personality you’re a little embarrassed by?

I do.

And if I started to list them I probably wouldn’t know where to stop.

I can be a complainer and whiner. Even worse, I sometimes turn into a martyr and feel sorry for myself. Other times I’m overly impulsive and have been known to have a really erratic temper.

But the thing is, we’re not our behavior. Often we know when we’re not acting our best and if you’re like me, you’re exceptionally hard on yourself.

In the past when these less than noble parts of myself raised their whiny heads, I cringed and felt ashamed. It seemed proof that I had not traveled far at all on the road of self-discovery.

For instance, I often write about mindful living.

Yet in the past year I alienated an editor and lost a writing gig by not thinking before I fired off a rather rude email.

I hurt a friend when I wasn’t sensitive to the things happening in her life.

I’m an advocate of eating healthy, organic food yet twice in the past month I bought a bag of Fritos and devoured it.

Who the f*&% am I to be writing about mindfulness and healthy living?

Oh, yeah, and I swear too much.

If I indulged myself, I would start to think why even bother trying to be my best? Nothing is going to work out anyway. I’ll be the same sorry loser I always was. But that kind of thinking gets us nowhere. And when we’re feeling bad, our lesser selves often rise to the surface.

When we sink into these places of despair it can be so hard to crawl back out.

But we have to. We need to recognize when despair first begins to wrap its slimy arms around our necks and threatens to pull us into that dark hole of depression.

We need to develop tools and learn to call on them in times of crisis. We may need to see a doctor and get medication. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

We can change how we act. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of work but it can be done.

And something happens when we change our behavior. We begin to change inside as well.

Who are your ignoble selves? We all have them.

  • Do you judge others?
  • Do you feel like you could tell everyone a thing or two about religion, politics or life?
  • Do you make fun of people for doing or saying things you find unintelligent?

Our judgment usually comes for a sense of inadequacy in our own lives. We all do this from time to time, so you don’t need to judge yourself for doing it. But you can leverage this awareness to change your thoughts and behavior. The key is to work toward change from a place of self-compassion instead of motivating yourself with shame. How do we do that?

Practice acceptance.

If I could choose one word that has helped me to live with my ignoble selves it would be acceptance.

It’s a simple concept, yet hard to practice. But acceptance has been far more helpful to me than either love or forgiveness.

The truth is, there are people in my life I have a hard time forgiving or loving, but I’ve been able to create positive change in my life by accepting what they’ve done.

I really can’t forgive my grandfather who molested me as a young child. And I certainly feel no love for him.

I’m not sure I’ve forgiven my sweet, scared, and skittish mother for not seeing the deep, acute pain I was in and doing something about it, but I will always love her just the same.

Acceptance has led me along the path of love and forgiveness, but I couldn’t get there without first accepting the reality of life as it is: imperfect and painful as well as fulfilling and full of joy. Both realities are accurate.

Acceptance ultimately comes back to accepting ourselves as we are with all our beautiful imperfections. Once we truly accept who we are for what we are, we open the way to change.

Forgive yourself.

We often forgive others much more easily than we forgive ourselves, but after acceptance, forgiving yourself may be the next most important step.

Forgive yourself your imperfections.

Forgive yourself your less than noble behavior.

Forgive yourself for not being the person you think your lover or friends or family want you to be.

Forgive yourself if you’re still not living the life you think you should live.

Life is not easy on any of us.

We’ve all had traumas and losses. We all have personality traits that are less than stellar.

But if we begin with acceptance and move onto forgiveness, we will inevitably come to the ultimate goal: love.

And when we truly love ourselves, we’ll find our ignoble selves become less and less dominant. They’ll still show up from time to time. That’s just the nature of things, but with love we can kindly refuse to indulge them.

Love brings laughter back into our lives and helps us turn our ignoble selves into one perfectly flawed being alive with joy and love.

Sad woman image via Shutterstock

Profile photo of Leslie Jordan Clary

About Leslie Jordan Clary

Leslie Clary is a writer, photographer and online college instructor who believes it’s never too late to create a life we will love living. She writes a monthly newsletter, Our Daily Zen, and is working on a book about healing from child sexual abuse.

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  • GemmaW

    Forgiving ourselves is vital to all aspects of our well-being. But we need to know without a shadow of a doubt that we are worthy of being here, of being loved, respected, acknowledged, forgiven, and much more. That’s hard to do when we’re constantly being bombarded with negative messages from the media, society and even our loved ones. Have you ever tried to forgive yourself when you feel a deep sense of unworthiness? And how does that sense of unworthiness form, originally? Who or what planted the seed? We weren’t born feeling unworthy.

    From my perspective, a good place to start is with the act of unlearning old, negative messages and programming, and reprogramming our subconscious minds with what helps us grow and progress.

    We need to be very selective about who/what we expose ourselves to, and what we accept on board. I wish more parents would teach this to their kids, and I’d like to see this taught in schools all over the world. Mindful parenting, and mindful education. 😉

    “But acceptance has been far more helpful to me than either love or forgiveness.”

    Maybe I’ve misunderstood, but you seem to view forgiveness as being a separate process from acceptance. Acceptance is an early part of the process of forgiving. There’s no separation. When we practise acceptance (surrendering to what is/was) then we’re going through the process of forgiving, whether we’re aware of it or not.

  • One thing I realized over time is that after I practiced being more open and accepting of other people, it was a lot easier to be more open and accepting of myself.

  • I think it all starts with our parents. It isn’t their fault, as they are only trying their best to turn us into good individuals that others enjoy being around. But during the discipline process we learn that we will be rewarded for doing something “good” and punished or withheld love and acceptance when we do something “bad”. Then when we grow up, we take the place of our parents, withholding love and acceptance of ourselves whenever we think we messed up.

  • Thanks for your comments, Gemma. I do agree that forgiveness and acceptance are tied up together. They might not happen simultaneously, but they are connected

  • Erin – It does seem to be an endless cycle sometimes, doesn’t it? Most of our parents probably did the best they knew how at the time without realizing their behavior would set the stage for how we feel about ourselves today.