“The older I get, the more I believe that the greatest kindness is acceptance.” – Christina Baker Kline
I’m coming to realise that having a space where you can be yourself fully, where you can safely, without judgement, bring all of yourself to the table, is one of the most profound experiences.
I’ve started becoming more aware of how and when I’m holding myself back from doing or saying something because of what I think someone else might be thinking. A little niggling voice asks “are you not doing it because you really don’t want to or because you think they’ll judge you?” “Why aren’t you sharing your opinion? Are you afraid it won’t be socially acceptable?” This voice of awareness is slowly making itself more obvious.
Cultivating relationships where it’s ok to be you, to say and do those things that we don’t deem acceptable or ok, can be scary. It might mean opening ourselves up, being vulnerable, being seen. It might mean letting someone see all the darkness that we keep hidden from the outside – all the “bad” thoughts, all the socially unacceptable beliefs…
I’m getting fed up of holding back. My clients are too. So are my friends. We want relationships where we can bring ourselves (all our selves) fully to the table, lay all our cards out and say “here I am, this is me”.
This means offering other people the same, both in our personal and professional lives.
The more we practise not just tolerating, but deeply accepting another person, the more we give them permission to exist. This can be hard. Humans are complicated. People can be infuriating. They have beliefs we can’t comprehend and traumas we don’t understand; triggers that don’t bother us, interests we deem as unimportant and some people don’t seem to know what really matters in the world. They do things that don’t make sense and how can they be so mean? Why can’t they see when they’re wrong and why do they complain about something and do it anyway? Why don’t they get that the answers to their problems are so simple? After all, all they need to do is just…
By stopping, we see them.
By listening, we hear them.
When we allow them to exist, without criticism or fixing, they learn that in our presence they are safe.
What happens when we offer acceptance?
The results are three-fold (at least):
1. We strengthen our personal relationships.
Think about a time when you were in the presence of someone who allowed you to be you – maybe they gave you space to cry, lovingly laughed with you about your mistakes or lent a hand when you needed help. When another person feels safe in our presence, loved, appreciated and accepted, our relationships prosper whilst the individuals themselves flourish.
“All of us blossom when we feel loved and wither when we do not feel loved.” – Gary Chapman
2. We are offered more acceptance by others.
As people feel safe and accepted being themselves around us, they begin to offer us the same gift. Reciprocity is embedded within our human nature stretching back through the ages of our ancestors. Social psychologists Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin even attribute our very nature to reciprocity as learning who we could trust and sharing resources was vital for survival. With positive reciprocation, we can create a spiral of unending love in our relationships, a dancing dynamic of acceptance.
3. We give ourselves permission to exist.
Last, but certainly not least, as Gary Chapman, author of the 5 Love Languages highlights:
“People tend to criticize [others] most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need.”
By offering unconditional acceptance of the other, we offer this acceptance to ourselves. We acknowledge where we are with more love – who we are, what we have and what we’re still working on. As we grow in confidence in who we are, we feel more comfortable in sharing this with the world.
Today, I’m choosing to give people the space to show up, however they are. I’m choosing to offer others a space to bring anything they need to bring and for us to recognise it as ok. I want to give people the space to be seen.
In some personal relationships I think I’m doing ok. In others, I’m still learning how to offer this space. I think I know what I need to do: listen. That’s it. Just to listen. Sometimes I forget and I become frustrated. But I just need to listen with love.
And in order for all this to happen, I need to be willing to be seen too ♥️
If anything in this post has resonated, touched you or triggered something for you in any way, please feel free to get in touch and share you experience by contacting me here.
Also published on Medium.