“More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity.” ~Francois Gautier
Pain was my norm; not physical pain, but emotional pain compounded with mental self-torture. I was an introvert without introspection, painfully shy and unable to make eye contact. I caved to all manners of peer pressure.
I was a doormat and didn’t stand up for myself, although I would fight tooth and nail for someone else. It seemed like others often took advantage of my kindness. I took everything personally and cried a lot. Thoughts of suicide lasted for years.
After more than a decade of misery, I decided something had to change and was guided to self-acceptance work.
Gaining self-acceptance was the best thing I’ve ever done. It opened me up to a new perception of myself and to understanding what I did in the past that contributed to my pain.
In understanding myself and the motivations behind my behavior, I was more clearly able to understand other people’s behavior.
What I learned (and wish I knew then):
1. Our behaviors are driven by our needs.
Regarding: My kindness was often taken advantage of. I caved to all manners of peer pressure.
Was it actually kindness? Maybe it was weakness. Or was it people pleasing for the purpose of gaining approval? I came to believe it was the latter.
Everything I did—whether it was in my best interest or not, whether I wanted to do it or not—I did because it provided me with something I believed I needed.
Behaviors deemed as “people pleasing” are often driven by:
- A need to be liked
- The need for acceptance; a need to fit in or belong
- Fear of being disliked or having people mad at you
- The need for approval
- The need to be needed; to feel useful
- Fear of being alone (“I’ll lose friends if I don’t.”)
By determining my needs, I could better understand my behavior. With that I became more aware and could then look at other people’s behavior and try to determine what it was telling me about what they needed.
2. We teach others how to treat us.
Regarding: I was a doormat and didn’t stand up for myself.
The only possible reason I would choose not to stand up for myself was because I believed I deserved it—because I didn’t feel worthy. Since I thought I was “less than,” why shouldn’t I be treated that way?
One day, I heard Dr. Phil say, “We teach other people how to treat us.” This got me thinking: Was all the mistreatment I experienced a result of how I was treating myself? The answer was yes.
Our behavior toward ourselves is the model we present to others as how to treat us. The things we believe and think about ourselves come out in our behavior and other people pick up on it.
If we are self-critical and self-abusive to ourselves, unevolved people (the majority) will follow our lead.
If people are treating you “badly,” investigate how you treat yourself, and treat yourself better. Others will follow your lead this way too.
Recognizing this for yourself will help you ignore the cues others are modeling so you can treat them better than they treat themselves.
3. There is such a serious lack of unconditional love and acceptance in the world because so few of us have unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves.
What we withhold from ourselves, we withhold from others.
(In retrospect, I recognized I didn’t give or receive complements, and the reason was because I did not accept or approve of myself.)
The other side of this coin is: What we give to ourselves, we extend to others.
We cannot give from an empty cup. We cannot give what we don’t have and what we don’t know how to receive. What we think about and how we treat ourselves are reflected in how we think about and treat others.
When we love ourselves unconditionally, we can love others unconditionally. When we accept ourselves unconditionally, we can accept others unconditionally.
On the negative side, when we judge ourselves harshly, we judge others harshly. When we criticize ourselves harshly, we criticize others harshly.
So the goal for peaceful existence and coexistence with others is to treat ourselves with respect, compassion, and love so we may treat others the same.
After gaining self-acceptance, I was able to perceive others differently and became more accepting and compassionate with even the most difficult people.
So, here are some more of the really important things I’ve learned: the mantras that changed my perception. They are now part of my consciousness and are reflected in all my dealings with myself and others. May they do the same for you!
4. Everyone is doing the best they can with the tools, knowledge, and presence of mind they have at any given moment.
This is a wonderful mantra I used when faced with difficult people. Understanding and embracing this will give you patience and compassion while lessening frustration, anger, and hurt. It will make you more responsive and less reactive.
There is so much pain and fear in the world, which motivates most of the unpleasant behavior. Other people’s behavior is not about you. If you can perceive “bad” behavior as a call for love and compassion, you will see life differently and respond with kindness.
5. We are all a work in progress.
We are all on the same journey to evolve our spirit, but we are all at different points on the path. Combine this with #4 and you will be able to be gentle with yourself and others.
As you accept this concept about yourself you will be able to observe it in others.
6. There are only two pure emotions: love and fear.
Anger is a secondary emotion and is an outward expression of pain, fear, and/or frustration. Anger has become a more acceptable emotion than the expression of pain or fear.
Many of us were trained to believe that expressing pain or fear is a sign of weakness, so you may have learned to use anger instead. Uncover the primary emotion producing the anger in you and others, and attend to the real source with love, gentleness, and compassion.
7. Forgiveness liberates us.
When I hold anger and resentment toward others, I am tethered to them. They control my thoughts and feelings. They have power over me.
Resentment lodges itself in the body and causes dis-order and dis-ease. Forgiveness frees the heart, the body, the mind, and the spirit.
Forgiving myself is equally important; it means that I accept myself as a work in progress and recognize I was doing the best I could.
When you can accept and forgive yourself, you will be better able to accept and forgive others.
When dealing with applicable issues, repeat these silently or aloud. Do it frequently and they will become your new beliefs. They are all productive, healthy, and highly beneficial to your health, your peace, and your relationships.
May your perception shift and allow you to see yourself and others with love and compassion.
Photo by ZeePack