The Summer Solstice is upon us as we are celebrating Pride Month and making plans to mark International Yoga Day on Thursday, June 21st! As I reflected on the intersection of these events and celebrations, I came upon a thread that runs deep, connecting the acknowledgement of the light on the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, dignity, equal rights and self-affirmation, and discovering the sense of oneness – ACCEPTANCE. Rejection is the darkness, so tapping into the light of acceptance opens the door wide to better mind, body, and spiritual health.
As humans, we have a fundamental emotional need or desire for validation that we are intrinsically valuable and worthy of belonging. We can try to ignore or discount – or dare I say reject – this basic human need in our culture that puts a very high value on independence, yet when we do so we are simply rejecting a part of ourselves, making us even more vulnerable to the rejection of others. When we are a part of a group, we tend to feel protected and safe. When we are rejected or excluded, it can contribute to a sense of isolation and feelings of embarrassment and loneliness. Research has supported that the experience of rejection leads to poor health – both physically and mentally – and increases the tendency toward violence, both towards oneself as well as towards others.
So, below I have offered intention-setting ideas to allow the external light of the sun be a reminder to keep our own internal flame burning brightly, so it can bring light to those dark corners of our minds and hearts that have us holding the false belief that because we are housed in different earthly human vessels with unique expressions of being in the world, we aren’t valuable and don’t deserve to be here unless we conform to what others say is acceptable.
- Embrace your intelligence. Alfred Binet’s research from the early 20th century on what is intelligence is ‘so yesterday’ if I might say so! How many of us felt stupid if we didn’t excel at math or science or language. I know I did! I hated English until a teacher gave me permission to be creative in my expression. As I allowed myself to be more creative in my writing, I discovered a whole different part of myself. Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist, theorized in his 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, that there are nine categories of intelligence. If what he suggests moves us in the direction of recognizing and valuing the diversity of human expression, it definitely supports our basic human need for acceptance. And I am all for not limiting the definition to just logical intelligence, where dare I say most of us would count ourselves short, which feels detrimental to the experience of being human. So consider setting aside some time to read more about Gardner’s theory of nine intelligences to see where your natural gifts might reside within your brain!
- Acknowledge your accomplishments. At the end of each day, think about taking a few minutes to focus on what you accomplished that day. Most of us have VERY LONG “to do” lists and are not able to cross everything off each day, which tends to invite self-defeating thoughts. To cut off the stress that accompanies those self-defeating thoughts, close your eyes for a few minutes and reflect on what you did do that day. What you may realize is that you accomplished way more than what was on your list, including some less tangible tasks, like making someone smile or listening to a friend in need, which are invaluable.
- Express appreciation towards yourself. Most of us are taught to thank others when they do something kind for us, yet I bet most of us were not taught the practice of thanking ourselves for making ourselves a priority. In fact, I suspect most of us were taught the exact opposite, that putting any attention on ourselves would be considered selfish and thus not acceptable. Therefore, I challenge you to identify something that you did to take care of yourself recently and formally thank yourself for doing so. And if you can’t identify anything, might I offer that it’s been way too long and that you plan to do something for yourself this week. And don’t forget to thank yourself for taking care of yourself, remembering that self-care does not mean selfish!
- Say something kind to yourself. How radical would it be for you to stop right now and say something like “You are intelligent” or “You are lovable” or “You are worthy”? Remember how our mothers would tell us “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Well, I personally wish my own mother would have empowered me to apply that to myself! If we were able to record our thoughts and then listen back to the recording, I suspect most of us would experience more negative, critical judgments of ourselves than we would hear expressions of loving kindness. And if you are like most people and experience “out of sight, out of mind”, then consider identifying something kind you would like to say to yourself and write it down on an index card and place it by the bathroom mirror, where you can see it each morning and night as you brush your teeth.
- Get in touch with our common humanity. When we make mistakes, there is a tendency to beat ourselves up mentally and emotionally, and sometimes physically. Yet the expression ‘it’s only human’ exists as a reminder that to be human is to be perfectly imperfect and that it is by design that we are all fallible and will make mistakes. So why are we so harsh on ourselves? Why are we able to comfort a friend when they are being down on themselves, yet find it difficult to offer comfort to ourselves when we are suffering? When we can consciously open ourselves up to and explore the concept of common humanity, we are more able to remind ourselves that feelings of inadequacy and disappointment are universal, a shared human experience. We all experience the same pain even though the mistakes we make may be different. Remembering we are not alone in our pain and suffering brings comfort, acceptance and peace. Try it out soon!!