This is a good time to share one of my favorite quotes from the father of modern psychology, Carl Rogers:
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
This is indeed a paradox and hard to believe, but in fact, it is what I spend much of my time working on with clients and sure enough, their life goes in the direction they want. I see people as whole, resourceful and not ‘broken’, just as they are and help them see that in themselves. Sure enough it brings out their potential and they can in fact, achieve their goals. I encourage my clients to throw out the self-help books and even though New Year’s resolutions seem like a good idea, they are sometimes counterproductive.
I do an exercise with people (and myself) sometimes to switch around the when and then stories we tell ourselves. For example, often people will say something like, “WHEN I lose weight, THEN I’ll be happy.” I have them change it to “WHEN I’m happy, THEN I will lose weight.” What would it be like for you to switch around your WHEN and THEN stories? Would life be more fun then? What if you committed to being happy, which means no self recriminations or shaming? Shaming and self recrimination never gets anyone anywhere nearer their goals. Kindness and compassion move mountains. This sounds simple but it’s not always easy and sometimes we need help with this shift.
Only through acceptance of all of yourself can you really grow and change because when you are in a state of acceptance, it relieves stress. Only when the body and mind are relaxed can healing happen, literally. When the stress response is constantly running, even at a low level—like a low grade fever, very little healing, problem solving or creativity can happen. The body is in a state of ‘fight or flight’ and all its resources, including mental, physical, emotional and spiritual are being used just to manage the destructive bio-chemical and hormonal bath of this stress state.
I like the story of the Cracked Pot to illustrate this concept. You may have heard the expression that someone is a ‘crack pot’ (not a drug reference 😊). The author is unknown but let me know if you know who wrote this!
A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.
“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.” “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?” “I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your ‘flaw,’ and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”
Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all cracked pots. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. What if you just took yourself and others for what they are, and looked for the good in yourself and them? How would things change for you if you believed there was nothing wrong with you?
There is a lot of good out there. There is a lot of good in us! Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. Remember to appreciate yourself and all the different people in your life! First of all, go outside and play, have some fun and be grateful.