Workaholic? Stressed by work? You may be lacking in self-acceptance.

Do you work long past quitting time or answer emails on the weekend? Or worry a lot about work even when you are not on the job?

Now, certainly it is important to perform well at work. Losing a job is serious stuff. But scratch the surface of these behaviors and may people report excessive worrying a lot about how they are perceived at their job. 

They may put in long hours hoping to get a bit of praise from a boss or client. Or they may labor diligently to avoid making a mistake and earning a reprimand.

Good quality workmanship is not a negative. But this striving for approval or avoidance of disapproval can be seen as an effort to avoid experiencing shame. This may indicate a lack of self-acceptance and the poor shame tolerance that results. 

If you are overly focused on gaining a feeling of approval from your work environment, it may be that you are overly needy for that approval because you are not giving it to yourself. You may be seeking emotional fulfillment and validation through work, rather than through interpersonal relationships — where you should be seeking it. 

I experienced this myself in an interesting fashion. Before I was a psychologist, I was a freelance journalist. This job had many benefits, such as working from home much of the time. But one downside was the nearly complete lack of feedback from clients. Once I wrote something I rarely heard much about any reaction. And despite being very independent and not a needy type of person, I believe this weighed on me — largely because I was lacking in self-acceptance at that time in my life. 

As a result, I felt slightly resentful or easily irritated by clients for very little reason. 

Once I gained self-acceptance, these experiences completely changed. I had the same irritating experiences and unresponsive clients, but I enjoyed my job much more. The only thing that had changed was my ability to give myself approval and compassion. So I was no longer looking externally for that validation. I did not rely on my job for a feeling of emotional satisfaction and  connection. I had connected with myself in a healthy way. I knew I was a good person, irrespective of my performance on a project for a client. I did not hope for that positive feedback to affirm my self-worth. 

I see this issue arise with couples. Let’s say the husband may be a workaholic. The result? The relationship becomes distant and lacking in warmth. But it is more than just his long hours or his head in his laptop. He is looking outside the relationship for emotional connection and “intimacy,” rather than toward his wife. She senses this disconnection and distance and feels hurt. 

Learning self-acceptance and mindfulness is the way forward to an improved balance in life, improved relationships, and reduced work “stress.”

Preventing Caregiver Burnout with Self-Acceptance

Heather Forbes, LCSW, is one of my favorite parenting experts and the following Q&A by her is a great explanation for “burnout” — and applies not just to parents, but also mental health professionals and other caregivers. 

7f907f_e1c2608554e14f65a5474a20ca0a699aIn Self-Acceptance Psychology I describe those who are “Self-Blamers.” Burnout is due to a Self-Blamer’s high need for the approval of others to gain a feeling of validation. (Because they lack self-acceptance!) The Self-Blamer believes: “If I care and help you, and you don’t change, I am a failure.” This triggers shaming and blaming messages that lead to anxiety, depression and other emotional distress. 

One must gain self-acceptance so that one can let go of a need to gain approval. This is the healthiest way for all of us, especially caregivers, to go through life. 

 

From Heather’s Daily Reflections: 

“In order for children to open up to their past trauma memories, the parent has to be willing to be a ‘parental sponge’–acknowledging, absorbing, and experiencing every feeling, every tear, and every fear associated with the trauma. Now that is connection!”

Q: I just read my first reflection, regarding being a parental sponge and while I agree with the spirit of it, my concern is this: “Experiencing your child’s or client’s trauma at such an intensity, couldn’t that create trauma for the person being the ‘sponge’?” I feel I am very empathic but how can I do that without hurting myself?

A: This is an insightful question. Traditionally, most of us are empathic and give compassion in a way that ultimately drains us. This is because of a core belief that tells us that by giving empathy, we will be able to make this person better or that we have the ability to “fix” the problem for this person.

We own that it is up to us to get this person to shift into a calm, peaceful, and regulated state. Their issue then becomes our issue and we stay focused on the outcome of them being better.

It becomes a simple mathematical equation. If I give empathy (E), if I listen (L), and if I spend my time with this person (T) , he will be better (B). E + L + T = B

Yet, when we give these three and the result is not what we expected, we feel a sense of failure. We turn it back on ourselves and hear the old negative tapes playing in our head, “I didn’t try hard enough.” “I’m not good enough.” “I should have done something different.” BAM! The negative feedback loop then feeds on itself right within our own mind. Fatigue, overwhelm, and even resentment begin to brew within our internal selves.

In order to be a sponge, the only action we need to take is to simply be present with our child (or friend, spouse, coworker). It is not up to us to make this person better. The reality is that we cannot change or fix another person. We can surround them with support; we can love them unconditionally, free of judgment or control; we can set appropriate boundaries, and we can align with their pain. Yet in doing this, it is still ultimately up to them to make their life work.

Additionally, if we enter into an interaction with a child, expecting him to be better, we are actually adding more stress to the equation, which will create more fear and hinder the healing process. We must stay focused on giving our love without expecting anything in return. That is the essential definition of love.

Entering into an interaction with an expectation of an outcome is not true love. This is conditional love. Conditional love drains us. Unconditional love energizes and liberates us.

So that is the theory and I know you are reading this and wanting some meat to chew on–you want application to your 16-year-old teenager whose girlfriend just dumped him and he is feeling like the entire world is coming to an end. You see how his past abandonment issues are being triggered and how this situation is being magnified due to his early adoption history.

Reprogram your thinking to see that what he needs is your support, your attention, and your unconditional acceptance. It is not up to you to make this okay for him. Trust that it is in the struggles of life that we learn and grow to our maximum potential.

By being empathetic, by listening, by spending time, and being present with him you are doing EVERYTHING for him. Stay focused on the outcome of you being the absolutely best parent you can be, no matter the outcome of his emotional state at the moment. Your “success” cannot be tied to his feeling better instantaneously.

Keep being the sponge for your child’s pain. Become energized by the power of putting unconditional love into action. There is no greater state to be in on this planet! 

Press on,

 

Heather T. Forbes, LCSW

Parent and Author of Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control: Volume 1 & Volume 2,

Dare to Love, and Help for Billy.

Living Proof of the Power of Self-Acceptance

Self-Acceptance Psychology™ Book Cover

As I sat down to write this first blog, I realized I am living proof of the power of self-acceptance. Ten years ago, I certainly never would have considered taking huge risks like writing a book, putting up a website, blogging or video blogging. I could never have imagined being self-revealing about my own personal struggles and flaws. And I certainly would not have been brave enough to take on the entire psychiatry profession, challenging how it diagnoses and treats those it arbitrarily and falsely identifies as having “mental disorders.”

But when I consider how completely Self-Acceptance Psychology transformed my personality and relationships, it fuels my passion to bring these ideas to others. I feel so strongly about these concepts that I am even going out on a limb financially and career-wise purely in an effort to help others. It would be much easier to enjoy my life without the tremendous challenges of promoting this idea in every minute of my spare time.

My Journey to Self-Acceptance

My journey to self-acceptance began during my second divorce about 10 years ago. My main goal was to avoid repeating the unhealthy relationship patterns that I had experienced in my two failed marriages. Little did I know that so many wonderful, healthy changes would occur to my personality as well!

So I started with therapy, where I took a fresh look at my self-perception, childhood experiences and family relationships. For the first time, self-reflection and journaling became a major part of my life. I read self-help books by the dozens. I was lucky to have been practicing yoga for many years and I revived a meditation practice I had learned in college in the 1970s. A daily running habit was also a tremendously helpful mindfulness practice.

This combination of mind and body work helped provide a calm field for my self-reflection and insights.

If you had asked me at that time, I probably would have said that I loved and accepted myself. I always believed I was a calm person. I have always been a very positive, forward-thinking person who doesn’t dwell in the past. I am not a worrier, and don’t have any phobias, obsessions, or other anxiety-based behaviors. I’ve never been depressed.

I am not an attention-seeker, stirring up dramas or having emotional meltdowns. I’m also very decisive in personal and business matters. I have no problem making major decisions and don’t wallow in regret. Physically, I’ve always tried to carry myself with confidence.

Despite all those positive characteristics, I now recognize that in the past I wasn’t calm at my core.

It is only in hindsight and with improved self-awareness that I am able to recognize that I spent far too much time and energy anxiously focused on the opinions and needs of others. I was too busy worrying what everyone else thought about me.

Simply: Because I had such low self-worth, I depended on others for feelings of acceptance.

As I look back, I can clearly see how low self-worth and the desperate need for approval had driven my behaviors, both large and small. Hindsight has allowed me to become fully aware of how this played out in many powerful and intriguing ways.

In my next blogs I’ll give details of the many changes in my personality that occurred when I gained self-acceptance. 

Check out my first video blog on You Tube. And follow my blog or social media for updated information on Self-Acceptance Psychology™, and news of related topics.