Client story: "I can't accept myself as I am," said Lilly, a 38-year-old film producer. "I don't think I'm good enough yet." "When will you be good enough?" I asked. "I'm not sure," said Lilly. "If you were willing to accept yourself, you might start feeling good enough now," I said.

Lesson: Self-acceptance teaches you that you are not who you think you are. You are able to discern between your ego and your Unconditioned Self. Early on, children start to construct a persona to help cope with the demands of being in a family, going to school and facing the world. On close inspection, you find that your persona or ego is made up of judgments about who you are, what is possible, what you deserve and what you don't. These judgments become the lens through which you see yourself and the world.

For example, Lilly had created a persona commonly described as perfectionistic. This personality type focuses on getting things right and being good. It conceives an ideal self (rather than a real self) that has high standards and stringent rules you must try to live up to. Your persona judges your efforts, and the more you judge yourself, the more you move out of alignment with the innate goodness of your Unconditioned Self.

Exercise: The more you judge yourself, the less you see who you really are. The habit of self-judgment causes self-denigration in which you belittle yourself, criticize yourself, punish yourself and treat yourself without kindness. The most powerful way to undo the effects of self-denigration is kindness and forgiveness, which restore awareness of your innate goodness.

Declare today, "I forgive myself for my judgments." Affirm yourself by saying, "I will not criticize myself today." Trust in your goodness. Resolve to treat yourself with kindness.

Next: How to love yourself as you are


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