The remainder of the 22 personality changes I gained through learning self-acceptance:
13. All my life I was shy — painfully so as a child — and personality tests identified me as introverted. Crowds and social events were tiring. I used to struggle in social situations, overthinking my responses and being fearful of saying the wrong thing. I hesitated to start conversations and often looked and sounded awkward. When my self-judgment and my fear of being judged by others were eliminated, I became extroverted. Remarkably, I did this without affirmations or conscious effort to be more socially outgoing. In fact, I believed what I had been told — that personality traits like extroversion or introversion are unchangeable. Now I can talk to anyone at any time with ease and even feel energized from being with others. Because I am relaxed, I can now react effortlessly and appropriately. All because I was no longer fearful of what others thought of me.
14. I used to be afraid of emotional closeness, psychological openness, and vulnerability. My transformation could not be more drastic — I changed careers to become a clinical psychologist and I deal comfortably with strong emotions every day. I not only value the power of emotional connection to others, I realize that true courage involves opening up to others.
15. Where I used to tolerate bad behaviors in partners, I now make conscious choices about who to allow into my life. I set clear, healthy boundaries early and often in relationships.
16. My emotional and social intelligence was limited, largely because I was so busy dealing with my own fears and insecurities. As a result, I failed to tune in to the emotions of others. Because I am not caught up in my own fears and self-judgments or fear of the judgments of others, I can be fully present to my own emotions and the emotions of others. Now, for the first time, I can honestly experience real compassion toward others.
17. My intuition is a valuable resource that I rely on to guide my decisions. Because I am calm and have slowed my thoughts and emotional reactions, my intuitive insights can percolate up into my consciousness, giving me lots of great information about other people and situations. 18. calm now also enables me to sense the energy of others. Many people are running at “high alert” all the time, so anxieties, fears, and insecurities over imagined situations are overwhelming the real information flowing in from their instincts and emotions. They may miss out on a wealth of valuable facts about threats from people trying to manipulate them. I know I certainly missed these signals in the past.
19. This is a big one I hear about from patients a lot who complain abut being unhappy: I used to be discontented much of the time, always looking for the next thing — trip, job, relationship, project, or event. I realize now that it was because I looked for these sorts of external situations to experience a sense of happiness. I didn’t realize that my sense of emptiness was due to my lack of emotional connection to myself and others and due to my need to look externally to solve it. I had somehow (yes, probably from my parents!) learned to look for approval from others as the meaning of love and happiness. If you are not happy in your relationship with yourself, you will never be happy, no matter what career, house or partner you have. If you, instead, look inward to gain self-acceptance you may find contentment wherever you are, in whatever career or relationship you have. Paradoxically, my endless questing for some ephemeral sense of happiness is gone, yet I am actually very happy and contented in life.
20 .The imperfections of others — laziness, job screw-ups, bad driving — all used to irritate me. I would vent about these injustices regularly to myself and others. Remarkably, when I accepted my own imperfections, I also learned to be much more accepting of the failures of others. I can be more understanding of their motivations and struggles, knowing that we all mess up, make bad decisions and even drive poorly! Plus, my lower levels of anxiety make me less easily irritated by all of life’s annoyances.
21. In the past, I did not have good eye contact because I was so submissive and deferential. Now I do not become uncomfortable making sustained eye contact with others.
22. I had difficulty making good career decisions and knowing my own passions or interests. When I read about things like “flow states” and “finding your passion,” I never really understood these concepts emotionally. They sounded good, but I had never experienced them so they had no meaning for me. This was largely because I had no emotional or psychological awareness. I was so externally focused on the opinions of others, I dismissed my feelings and thoughts. Now I experience intense flow states nearly every day at work — time flies when I am with clients and I love my job. Psychology is undoubtedly my life’s work.
Have you changed your personality through personal growth work or improved self-acceptance? How have you learned to tolerate shame? Please share your experiences!
Be kind to yourself!