Uh-oh. In Alena Hall’s Huffington Post article about being genuine, there’s a hiccup. Sure, the new research smiles at yesterday’s research. Take, for instance, the classics like Fromm with the Marketing Self or Winnicott with the True/False Selves. Both of these scenarios are repeated in contemporary works.
Only, today as in this article’s research, we glamorize self-esteem. This gets us into trouble because, as the classic landmark studies also taught us, esteem drives us to market ourselves in false ways. A more steady word for us to pursue is self-acceptance.
Most of us put on such a well-marketed public image that we actually think it is real. Take Twitter, Facebook, dinner parties, and what you choose to say to the Starbuck’s barista. Yet, when we leave these occasions, we might have a nagging sense of emptiness or loneliness. It’s the reason sites like Whisper, where you make anonymous confessions, are booming.
Despite all of our outwardly efforts, we still crave to be…what? Accepted. Unfortunately, anonymous Whisper confessions won’t do the trick because we’re still hiding. This is where the word acceptance can take the place of esteem.
Professionals often ask couples to practice acceptance of each other. So the couple goes home and tries to act accepting. But, that’s just it: they’re acting. And, it’s received by the other as insincere. This is because it is insincere, until one takes a more adventurous inward step.
The key is to first accept yourself, not others. In practice, self-acceptance looks like this:
- First, identify your patterns of self-distortions & defensiveness. It’s how we maintain being esteemed or, rather, being seen as we think we should be or want to be, but not as we are.
- Next, learn skills of candor. This is when you stop regulating your self. Instead, you act more spontaneously. Laughter typically comes along as a tell-tale sign of spontaneous candor. Or, in the early stages of coming out to play, a tell-tale sign is inner horror.
- So, thirdly, learn concrete ways to tolerate the vulnerability that initially may feel horrible. It is commonly described as rejection, embarrassment, inferiority, judgement…but only in the beginning as you let go of pride.
The vulnerability will be worth it. It’s necessary. Life starts to feel more alive. Really, because once we accept ourselves as we really are, we then seek out and attract others who support us just the same. As someone once exclaimed to me, “I’ve found my tribe!”
Your tribe encourages you. You encourage them. Emphasis on the word courage within encourage. You find your self less focused on being interesting, and more focused on being interested. This leads to enjoying your self, not trying to get others to enjoy you. Emphasis on the word joy within enjoy.
Ironically, esteem does then show up: the genuine kind. You esteem others and your real self with courage and with joy, all while accepting one “as is.”
(Reference: Brene Brown, 2010; Eric Fromm, 1976; Erik Ericson, 1959, 1982; Andrew Morrison, 1998; Guy Winch, 2014; Donald Winnicott, 1971, 1990; )