By now I’m assuming that each of you has completed your people tag. That you gave it considerable thought and that the tag you wrote is open, vulnerable, transparent and, therefore, exceedingly valuable to those people who you eventually share it with. Why? Because it will enable them to know you for who you really are, and to be aware of your needs, desires and feelings. I should add that your tag can be the most meaningful gift you can bestow to others this holiday season, but that, alone, isn’t the primary reason for writing your tag. The primary reason is the personal benefit you will derive from recognizing yourself and taking the first of the seven steps you have to traverse in order to come to peace with yourself and to love who you are.
I want you to know that you could not have written a valid people tag unless you first looked at yourself honestly and introspectively. Without doing so, you might’ve written something superficial, but that would mean that the tag you wrote wasn’t heartfelt, or totally truthful. As such, it’s worthless because a meaningful tag is one that, as you write it or later read it, causes you to feel some degree of embarrassment, guilt or sadness. Why? Because your tag is a testimony to the fact that you aren’t perfect, that you have shortcomings and deficits that are difficult to accept, and you often wish weren’t yours.
The positive side to that equation is that you recognize them. The next step you need to take is to own them. The best way to describe owning is for me to quote a patient who once said, “OK, I admit it. I’m anxious and insecure, but isn’t everybody?” The moment he attempted to minimize his feelings by sharing them with others was the moment he disavowed total ownership of what he claimed to have recognized. He probably did so to avoid anticipated criticism for being weak or to mitigate his own emotional discomfort. The truth is, however, that it doesn’t matter how many other people have the same failings, you still need to own what you discover in you, and determine how you can best cope with it. Denying, or mitigating it, only forestalls dealing with who you are. Conversely, owning it enables you to experience your feelings towards you, to accept them and to develop a positive plan for dealing with them.
So, denying or diluting your feelings doesn’t work, nor does self-hatred or punishment. What can help, however, is Step 3: forgiveness, which is easier to apply to others than to yourself. For example, if I accidently damage my car, I criticize, find fault and blame myself far worse than I would if my wife, children or a friend did the same thing. The solution is to recognize, own, and forgive yourself for whatever you have difficulty accepting as being a part of you.
Which brings you to Step 4: Accept you, despite your shortcomings. Feel the pain, embarrassment or hurt that it elicits; acknowledge that you are far from perfect, but accept that you’re still OK. As a result, you will no longer need to hide, deny, find fault or punish yourself. By forgiving self, you enable you to accept who you are, what you feel, or fear, and also to recognize and revel in the positive characteristics you possess. You see, each of you have positive and negative characteristics that are part of your hard drive. They’re there by virtue of your DNA, early rearing and life experiences. You can’t change them. Therefore, you must learn to live with, or in spite of them. To do so, you must complete each of the first four steps: recognize, own, forgive and accept you. You also may need to admit that, in the past, you acted out of your shortcomings and resolve to react differently in the future.
It is a process which eventually will enable you to far better live with yourself than ever before. But, it doesn’t end there. You will discover that when you are better able to live with you, you also will be able to live better with others. You will no longer need to find fault or to pull others down to your self-perceived level of insufficiency. Instead, it will allow you to see the strengths and virtues that others possess, and to compliment them without jealousy or malice. You will come to realize that people are equal in so many ways, and that no one is without faults, fears or failings. That everyone, no matter what they may say, needs involvement, care, support and love for who they really are – not for who they pretend to be. As a result, others no longer will be a threat to you. Because you accept you, you won’t be jealous or have to control or compete with others. You’ll know you’re worthy of being loved, and that you are a gift to those you care for.
You might ask, “How do you know when you genuinely accept you? The answer is, because you’ve taken Step 5 and 6. Five is that you’ve learned to laugh at yourself. You’ll be able to see the insecure, fearful, needy little child in you, and know that he’s a part of your hard drive, and you’ll find him amusing. You will never rid yourself of that guy or gal, but you can learn to smile at his or her childish behaviors and thoughts, and accept his shortcomings. At the point, you’ll be able to take Step 6, to share you with others. You will figuratively present them with your people tag without feelings of embarrassment, weakness or stupidity. You’ll be vulnerable and open with others, and, as a result, your interpersonal relations will improve tremendously. You no longer will need to intimidate, or push others away in order to feel emotionally safe. Your transparency will mitigate any need to hide feelings of insufficiency or inadequacy and, in the course of accepting, laughing at and sharing you, you will encourage and enable others to show and share themselves. All of which culminates in Step 7: You are learning that the imperfect person you’ve discovered in you is worthy of the love you desire from others, but even more from yourself.