When I was younger and things went “wrong” and an adult became angry, there needed to be someone to blame. That someone was often me or my siblings. At times, I blamed my younger siblings for things I did to try to escape the punishment and shame. “Who did this?” “Not me!”
There was a lot of anger in our household and anger and blame went hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly.
I learned well. On the one hand, it was wrong to be angry so I stuffed it down never telling anyone my feelings were hurt or how I truly felt. Always smiling. Always being ‘fine’. I also took to blaming other people when I was angry. Sometimes, this would come out as lashing out at someone, but mostly it was quite seething and turning the cold shoulder and hurting people in passive aggressive ways.
It took me decades to realize that I could feel anger – safely – without blaming anyone. That the anger I feel is my own and has nothing to do with anyone else. That anger isn’t wrong, it’s an emotion that needs love and attention, processing that can be done without blame, without lashing out, without hurting anyone.
This came to pass when I started intentionally working through my anger about things that I’d experienced as a young girl. I can still feel anger about those things, but I don’t blame anyone and, for the most part, I don’t project it onto others. I didn’t get here alone. I’ve had lots of support from therapists, coaches, spiritual teachers, and lots of study and practice.
I recently led a class, An Introduction to The Art of Self-Approval – and to be clear this is an art. Like an artist with canvas you are painting the picture of your life as you live it. I decided some time ago I no longer want to be putting blame or shame on my canvas.
In class, some of the discussion turned to things we experienced when we were young. It was a beautiful and powerful witnessing and honoring of one another as each women opened up that box a little bit to let in the light to free herself from any idea that she is wrong to be herself.
This got me thinking about how I’d internalized the anger/blame cycle in my life and how far I have moved beyond that. Thank goddess. That doesn’t mean we approve of the things that happened to us. They happened, and to our young hearts and minds they were traumatic.
The Art of Self-Approval is about freeing yourself from the hurt, the shame, and the need to blame so that you can be free to be who you are meant to be. To express yourself as boldly as you choose. It is, in essence, the practice of self-leadership. Becoming your own best friend. Honoring the courage and creativity it took your younger self to keep you safe and soothe the turmoil going on in your life and within yourself.
Self-Approval is understanding that every part of my life was instrumental in brining me here. That every feeling you and I have is valid. We are not broken, difficult, or wrong; nor do we need improving. Self-approval is about changing the lens through which we see ourselves and loving all of who we are – even that stuff that looks difficult, wrong, or unacceptable.
One of the most important things we can do in this process is self-witnessing. That begins with consciously turning to the breath – breathing in and out with awareness. Connecting to the breath allows the parasympathetic nervous system to engage – the rest and digest state of being. Then ask questions. How is my body reacting? What does my body need? Then be still, quiet and listen to the body’s response. We’re so inclined (trained?) to ‘think’ our way through life, but our body is continually speaking to us, guiding us, if we’re willing to pause and listen.
This life has led me here, to this room full of open-hearted women who are navigating this process along with me so they can step into the fullness of who they are here to be. I think that’s pretty freaking awesome – I wouldn’t change a thing.