A healthy balance between acceptance and achievement can be difficult to find.
An adult client who is on the autism spectrum expresses frustration with his family's “unrealistic” expectations of him. He states that he knows himself better than anyone else. They should not assume what I can and cannot accomplish, he says. True. At full adulthood, he wants to fully embrace what he calls his disabilities rather than fighting them all the time and feeling shame, blame and pain.
His family, on the other hand, reports aggravation that he never listens to them. They complain that he is negative and limits himself by relying on others to do things he is capable of doing for himself. The family expresses fear that he will stay in his house and not clean or care for himself. They worry he will live a less happy, healthy life than he is capable of living.
As I thought about their situation, I realized that this tension between fully accepted while still reaching and growing exists not only between people (typically parents and children) but within us as well. We want to embrace ourselves fully – even the things we don’t like so much. We need to relax and feel comfortable and safe. At the same time, there are parts of us that suspect or even fear that we are far more capable than we know.
Do you ever feel that if you just pushed a little harder you could live a better life?
Perhaps we think about living to our fullest in unhelpful ways – for ourselves and for our kids. What is the right amount of incentive or even pressure to grow and where does it come from? Here are a few ideas:
- Another person like a coach may inspire motivation. However, this only works when the person receiving the coaching desires change. It also helps to feel truly accepted or respected by the person coaching.
- Reaching for our “best” sometimes arises from a sense of frustrated disgust after years of not doing or being what we suspect we could do or be. This thought process works, I believe, when we are in enough pain to move out of comfortable complacency.
- Here’s my favorite: The inner peace of feeling deeply loved and yet not completely discovered places a longing in our hearts that pulls us into the next discovery of ourselves and our life. Although we may be quaking and shaking, we feel deeply encouraged to move ahead. I am reminded of the words of author Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
My heart’s desire is to compassionately examine spaces in my life where I believe I should “take it easy” because other options are too worrisome, too scary, too risky.
Parts of me prefer to worry over making changes that scare me rather than just making these changes. As I look at these parts of myself, I realize that they are not trying to handicap me. They only want to keep me from pain and danger. I can respect them and feel gratitude.
For almost almost two decades now I've had the honor of helping people meet and embrace previously unknown or misunderstood parts of their personalities, especially the ones that worry. I recognize the sequence of worry that leads to feeling stuck which eventually capsizes confidence. I’ve known it myself.
Life is not a choice of being comfortable with your true nature or moving forward toward growth and change. It’s about doing both simultaneously. From this perspective, you can consider both “What is best for me based upon my nature, preferences, disabilities, wounds or skills?” and “What is the right amount of challenge to help me grow?”
In Calm Your Worries: Unlock Your Secret Code to Lasting Stress Relief and Self-Confidence, I teach you how to understand your worry and help you to meet the parts of your personality that have learned to navigate life.
You can learn to love yourself more fully, embrace yourself more completely and move into your fullest being. It’s a practice you can begin today.