A month with two long weekends – lush. How was your April in terms of taking action?

For me, it’s involved periods of deep reflection, exploratory conversations and some extra training. The theme, that keeps coming up in the conversations, reading, and workshops, is around a sense of being “in the group”, yet feeling somehow disconnected with the group and its values or expectations.

So that’s this month’s theme – Acceptance and Joy. Join me as I share what I’ve been taking out of my research and studies.

INSIGHT

The relationship between acceptance and joy was famously explored by Professor Carol Ryff, which lead to her psychological wellbeing model, based on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, “where the goal of life isn’t feeling good but is instead about living virtuously”. It has 6 elements that need to fulfilled to achieve a sense of psychological wellbeing; they are:

  • 1.) Self-acceptance
  • 2.) Personal growth (Our March Shares newsletter theme)
  • 3. )Purpose in life
  • 4.) Environmental mastery (aka control over one’s surroundings and activities
  • 5.) Autonomy
  • 6.) Positive relations with others (aka positive sense of belonging, trust and connection)

In therapeutic usages, you are asked to rank parts of each element out of 6, with 6 being very positive and 1 being very negative. You might like to do a rough version of this and look at where your psychological well-being – which elements could benefit from some extra attention or what could you add to your Needs Creed to boost that element?

Self-acceptance is defined as having self-awareness, a realistic, yet subjective view of one’s talents, skills and worth plus a sense of satisfaction in oneself despite past failures, bad behaviours and choices. It allows us to recognise our uniqueness and brilliance, whilst allowing us to change and grow as individuals.

With myself and with clients, I notice that self-acceptance can be accessible in some areas and create joy yet unattainable in others, where we carry hurt, guilt or shame. Growing our self-awareness and connection with ourselves alongside self-care and compassion can help us discover, explore and realign to create greater self-acceptance and therefore greater psychological wellbeing and joy.

Asian woman with her hands behind her head, eyes closed and smiling a knowing smile

Guilt and shame can arise from our worse critic and harshest judge, ourselves. A time when we said or did the wrong thing. A choice that went wrong. A fear of being found out stopping us from asking for help. A decision not to step in and give for others.

Then afterwards we feel the ickiness, sometimes with a physical sensation of compromising our integrity in our behaviours or a negative view of ourselves. We may react with one of our disempowering archetypes, Bitch, Martyr and Victim with denial, defensiveness, blame, anger or self-pity, isolation and mistrust.

We need to find courage and bravery to recognise, explore and evoke new beliefs, thinking patterns and habits. I often talk about it as peeling onions. Each layer we peel off can feel comfortable and comforting at the same time. Uncomfortable because we face our less liked parts of ourselves or difficult experiences. Comforting as we find new meaning, understanding and release from them.

Courage might take the form of journaling, working with a therapist or a coach, or perhaps finding a group where others who have similar desires to grow and experience more joy and self-acceptance with less guilt and shame.

COURAGE

LIBERTY

If self-acceptance requires the ability to see ourselves and our choices realistically, my hunch is we need some sort of criteria to hang our hats on. A row of pegs that help us navigate, evaluate and decide.

For me, these are my values and my needs. My ability to discern what’s good, enabling and powerful about me hangs off them. Let me give you an example.

A dear friend had a 50th birthday coming up in July and I’d love to celebrate with her. We’re in different countries, with very different COVID responses. Joining her fits all of my life values – it would be a positive choice I could make to join her, it would definitely be joy fuelling and it would deepen our friendship. 

However, it would deplete me. My second jab date is just before I’d need to fly and take the train to meet her. I’d be travelling for longer than I’d be there due to the location and I’d be one of 50+ guests inside a restaurant. My physical and psychological needs would be impacted negatively more than the experience would enrich and nourish me.

Yet, one of my values in life and work is liberty – the ability to make my own choices. I’m owning it. I’m making the hard decision. I’m not going. I need to be courageous and acknowledge the parts of me not yet ready to travel internationally and be surrounded by a lot of people, who maybe aren’t being diligent in their handwashing and mask-wearing. 

I need to work on the self-acceptance piece here as I consider myself quite a brave, strong and resilient person in many ways so this is a new one for me (and my coach!)

Looking up at a white woman with her hands on her heart, head tipped back, eyes closed with a cloudy blue sky behind her

Self-acceptance and joy also go hand in hand with our experiences with others. I believe it is possible to be a part of a group, tribe, team, yet still, be different.

And that difference can make or break out self-acceptance. A few weeks ago, I was interviewed about finding joy in our lives for a group of women, who are childless through choice or chance. Within that safe space, we had a deep conversation, touching on my work and life and heard deeply intimate, often deeply emotional shares. These women came from several countries, different backgrounds and different ages – what holds them together is a desire to connect around their commonality and find a mutual understanding and respect of their situation.

Finding your people can support a greater sense of self -acceptance by helping us generate that “realistic yet subjective” assessment of our talents, skills and worth. It can also provide external reassurance and validation to support our inner self-view; it can not replace our own point of view, it can create a sense of belonging and likeness.

Where would you like to feel greater self-acceptance in your life, your actions, your choices? Who else shares that with you? Can you hang out with them as a reader or listener or at an exhibition, workshop or event? (PS Have you joined me and other women like us in the Haven, as together we seek to create, share and experience joy in our lives whilst cherishing our uniqueness? You’d be super welcome x)

CONNECTION

JOY

Without acceptance, joy is hard to find and experience. I’ve said it before – joy comes from within. We absorb the loveliness of a location, an experience or a person’s actions towards us or others and it grows a kernel of joy. It is more than happiness. It is more than contentment. It is more than an external sensation of pleasure.

It comes from within. We create it through our actions and choices, as well as in accepting brilliant selves as having worth in this world to do things that align to our values and support our needs.

It comes from investing in ourselves. We create more space and time and energy for joy by working on the parts of us or the parts of life that we don’t accept – by learning more about ourselves, we change, we try new paths, we make new decisions and greater joy follows.

What one aspect of you or your life could you learn a bit more about this month in order to define or reshape it and find more self-acceptance and joy?

Black woman with a beautiful knowing smile, eyes shut and her hand on her neck. A neon S shaped light swishes behind her

Keep peeling your onion of acceptance, shed the tears, feel the pain and release each layer to find your deeper sense of self-acceptance to create space for your joy to flourish.

I look forward to bringing you a bit more on this theme over the next 4 weeks – you get an extra blog as there are 5 Monday this May!