Self-Acceptance: Getting Past the Troll

Self-acceptance is HARD. As a therapist and a human, I can whole-heartedly attest to this. It is a journey that can take people decades to traverse. Theoretically we can get there at any moment, if only we would allow ourselves. Here’s the problem: there’s a troll standing guard at the entrance to self-acceptance. He’s grotesque and scary, and he’s got a club and a bad attitude. Allow me to introduce you to your inner critic. Your inner critic has one job: to prevent you from entering the land of self-acceptance. He does this by constantly informing you that YOU ARE

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Me, My Observer-Self, and I

I picture my observer-self as somewhere around eight inches diagonally up from my right ear. My observer-self is the part of me that notices what is going on with me. It’s the part of me that noticed that my thoughts drifted to plans for the weekend while I was reading my book-club book. It’s the part of me that wonders why I am suddenly feeling so irritable. It’s the part of me that reminds myself to be compassionate when I feel shame. My observer-self is the part of me that has perspective about me, and perspective turns out to be

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Getting to Sleep

Most people over the age of teenagerhood need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Do you get 7-9 hours each night? Do you wake each morning feeling refreshed? Most of the people I work with don’t. The trend in our society is to get less sleep as we try to fit in more hours of waking activity. And all of that waking activity tends to stress us out to the point of disrupting our sleep when we finally do get in bed. Not sleeping enough and not sleeping well is a problem. This is not news to you if

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Doing Hard Things

by Suzanne Manser, PhD Choosing to give a public talk. Letting go of a grudge. Stating your needs. Taking a salsa class alone. Returning to college. What do these have in common? They are hard things. They are hard because they come with the possibility of pain. Naturally then, our instinct is to avoid them at all costs. And yet, sometimes we do them. Sometimes we choose to risk pain. Why do we do hard things? A concept that I really came to understand through my work with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is that what you value and what

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Body Neutrality

Body image is how you see your body, and how you feel and think about what you see. You may see your body differently than others do. This happens because body image is not based only on your physical body; it is influenced by a number of factors, including childhood experiences, time spent looking at particular media, mood, and stress level. People with negative body images have distorted views of their bodies and don’t like what they see. They judge their bodies as “bad” in some way. Positive body image, on the other hand, generally includes having an objectively clear

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Self-compassion: “The hardest skill”

As a born perfectionist, I have naturally been terrible at self-compassion (the two do not play well together). I still struggle with it, even though I want to be kind to myself when I am in pain. In some areas, I’ve made great strides. In others, I still default to self-criticism over self-compassion. I just mentioned to a friend that I’m writing about self-compassion and she said, “Ah, the hardest skill.” Self-compassion is tricky business. As a society, we are truly awful at self-compassion. We’re not good at it, we don’t understand it, and we devalue it. And that is

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Acceptance

It has always been challenging for me to fully convey what the word “acceptance” means, when it comes to accepting painful feelings or painful situations. “Acceptance” has a bad rap, no doubt about it. No one gets excited when I suggest we work on accepting pain. A few patients have flat-out refused. The predominant assumption is that acceptance means that you settle for things as they are and never try to improve them. It is misunderstood as “giving in.” Actually, acceptance has nothing to do with settling or giving in – they are unrelated concepts. Acceptance is simply about not

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Be the Change

Too often, I have caught myself sitting in my comfy therapist chair sucking in my stomach, or resting my arm in front of it. It is a subconscious habit, born from decades of subconscious societal training. I am sure I have done it while encouraging someone to let go of judgment about their body. As a responsible human, I had to look at that behavior and what message it sends the person sitting across from me. The message might be that I am not comfortable with my belly. Worse, it might be that I have judgment of others’ bellies and

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