We have all done or said things that we are profoundly ashamed of. No human being escapes the black spiral of shame that dissolves self-love and self-acceptance like acid. To be human is to be ashamed of yourself at some point in your life.
I wish from the bottom of my heart for every single human being on earth to watch this powerful and touching video of a discussion between Tami Simon of Sounds True with celebrated author Elizabeth Gilbert who has lived her very human existence publicly through her memoirs Eat, Pray, Love and Committed.
The discussion is the first of a series as part of the Self-Acceptance Summit hosted by Sounds True, a multimedia publishing company founded in 1985 by Tami Simon.
Here is a taste.
First of all, why is self-acceptance important? Well, life without is simply unbearable, isn’t it? If you can’t stand yourself, chances are you can pretty much not stand life itself. In the words of Gilbert: “Absence of self-acceptance has brought me the darkest pain I have ever experienced.”
Self-acceptance is a hard state of being to come by. It’s like moments of sunlight when clouds are moving fast overhead.
One minute you have an insight and think to yourself: Ha! Now I see, I know now, I’m at peace now. Then something happens and you lose it all again. Gilbert tells a wonderful symbolic story here that comes down to this: every time you lift yourself out of that hole, you’re growing stronger. You are building something and that something is yourself.
How often do you berate yourself for something you should have done? In the context of self-acceptance, what do you say to someone who is in a marriage but isn’t leaving, or in a job they know they must leave but isn’t leaving?
We all know someone (or maybe it’s you) who says to themselves: I don’t know what’s the matter with me – I knew 7 years ago that my marriage was over, or I knew right from the start that the job wasn’t right for me, or I have lived in this city for ten years and have hated every day. Why can’t I leave?
Gilbert: To such a person I would say, clearly you do not yet know. You can’t know until you know. There is shame involved in that and you want to beat yourself up for staying. Yet, you can’t look back and say that you knew then that you should have left. You didn’t. You think you knew, but you didn’t. It’s easy to abuse yourself now and blame yourself for something you can see clearly now, but couldn’t then.
You didn’t know and when you did know, you took action and it was at exactly the right time.
The most loving thing you can do for yourself about things that you should have done and didn’t do, is to pause and really look back at that person at that moment and ask yourself if you could have done anything else at that moment with the knowledge you had then. You didn’t have the privileged position then that you are in now with all the knowledge you have now.
That is the basis of forgiveness. To learn to forgive yourself for the past. Could you have done anything different at that moment? And the answer is always ‘no’.
Here is the crux:
“And your best was good enough. This is a radical concept for most people who were raised in the shame-based culture”, says Gilbert, touching on a sore point for many of us who feel that our best was never good enough.
We all have this voice in our heads that says I should have done this, shouldn’t have said that, should have seen that coming. My best was most definitely not good enough.
Test that idea against love, says Gilbert.
“I have had to step out of myself and not see myself as Liz but as a member of the human family. All human beings are worthy of forgiveness and acceptance entitled to grace.”
If we can’t accept ourselves, if we are prepared to forgive others but not ourselves, it means we hold ourselves to a different standard than the rest of humanity. Such a person is saying: I am the only one that has to be perfect.
This is just a taste of what’s waiting for you on the video.