Here's the thing about Halloween, as I said to my 4:00pm cycle class yesterday, it's all about spooky, scary things that we don't normally enjoy...but so many people love it. I would be willing to bet you that there are more Halloween decorations in my neighborhood than there will be for Thanksgiving and Christmas combined. People go nuts for this holiday.
There's something really interesting about it when you dig beneath the surface (aka the thick layer of Reese's Cups and Smarties). From November-September, most of us would probably prefer not to have our store fronts, yards, and streets full of strangers in bloody masks, multi-legged insects, and unidentified monsters but for a brief period of time, when everyone else is on board, we readily accept and face these spooky spectacles.
Halloween is a time where we actively invite our fears onto our doorsteps to ring our doorbell, and then we feed them. We readily walk into rooms with people embodying some of our worst nightmares. We do it because everyone else is doing it. We do it because we know they're not actually the scary things they pretend to be. We do it because we know we're going to be okay.
Sure, that's obvious. No big deal. Ahh but is it? Think about the majority of the thing you fear on a day to day basis. Why do you fear them? What would realistically be the fallout of you facing that fear in a worst case scenario? Isn't it usually that once we face those fears, we realize the same thing we know to be true at Halloween time: that they're not actually the scary things they pretend to be. Sure, you might fear heights and that might make jumping out of a plane pretty terrifying. However, if you really had to go skydiving, odds are that you'd be okay. Your fear probably would have led to some good research on reputable skydiving facilities and you'd enter that plane rife with too much information on the best posture for free-falling through the sky. So many of the things we fear in our daily lives tend to be unfounded; we fear things like failing at our jobs, being disliked by our friends and family, being a bad parent, etc. etc. But no one has a holiday for those things. There's no month dedicated to parading around with things like "underachievement," "vulnerability," and "loneliness" written on our shirts.
What if there was? What if we did the same thing with our rational, human fears as we do with our irrational, supernatural fears on Halloween? What if we invited our vulnerability onto our doorsteps to ring our doorbell, and then we fed it. Yes. I just suggested that we feed our vulnerability. What if we continued to be brave and open because everyone else was doing it. What if we could know that those things, like failure and imperfection, are not actually the scary things they pretend to be. What if we knew we were going to be okay?
Self-acceptance can be spooky. It's riddled with vulnerability and uncomfortable questions. It's full of moments where you do indeed have to walk into a metaphorical room of things you fear - things like admitting imperfection, patience, and newness. Self-acceptance and admitting worthiness often asks us to unlearn things we have gone our whole lives accepting as true: like that we have to do everything right to succeed, or that work should be our top priority, or that you don't need to change to be happy, or that you're not selfish for putting yourself first. These ideas are counterintuitive in our current outwardly focused society i.e. do more in the world to get more physically. It's uncomfortable and scary to go against the grain because, as I said earlier, we don't have a holiday for facing these fears. You might not have that experience of watching others open the door to vulnerability to guide you. But if you keep moving through the darkness that is vulnerability, you'll eventually find the light switch and you'll illuminate all the honesty, intimacy, and power in the space. You'll see, like with most of our fears, that vulnerability was not actually the scary thing it pretended to be. What lies beneath it isn't a monster... it's you.
Working on cultivating self-acceptance? Here's some tips to stay the course!
1) Make your experiences match your mindset: From personal experiences as well as reading and listening to others, I've found that NOT doing this is the biggest block on people's journey to self-acceptance. If you find yourself in an environment that doesn't support your journey, your recovery, or your goals, you might need to work through a way to change it. For some of us, that might mean putting a bit of distance in a not-so-good-for-our-journey friendship, even if just for a brief period time. For others that might mean looking at a new career. Or, if you can't eliminate the unhealthy space, it might mean speaking our a space that will cultivate your self-worth. We're not all privileged enough to change or exit situations, but you might be able to find an online support group, club or activity that empowers you. Move towards the things that empower you.
2) Move with patience and forgiveness: The title of the post rings so true for me: self-acceptance can be spooky. It's not always easy and you might not always be up for the challenge. Go through your journey with forgiveness and patience at-the-ready because you'll need to employ it often. Forgive yourself on the days you fall backwards and be patient when a seemingly-simple task, like using nice self-talk or staring a positive habit, is proving harder than you imagined.
3) Question everything to grow with intention: So this is kind of my personal way of combining the idea of intentionality and mindfulness. I love to ask the question "why?" of myself - it asks me to examine the root of my behaviors and feelings as well as what I'm looking to get out of an action or thought pattern. It brings me to the idea of what I need vs what I want, and where those wants are coming from. Ask the question "Why?" not with skepticism but with genuine curiosity. Maybe you want to take a bubble bath or a run. Ask "Why?" and if the answer is "because I enjoy this and it makes me feel good." then okay. If it's "I don't really know... It's just an impulse." then maybe there's room to dig in to that impulse.