“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” — Carl R. Rogers
This riddle that Carl Rogers talks about is a crucial nugget of wisdom. It helps us understand why we fail to make positive changes. We must understand our current state to change it.
Imagine trying to find your way to a destination when you don’t know where you are now. Even if you have a map, you can’t get there. You must know where you are now to get to where you want to go. It’s perfectly okay to start with goals and plans in mind, but you must also accept your current situation.
Change is Easy When I Accept Myself
Self-acceptance is not the same as ego-edification. When you accept yourself “as you are,” you see positive and negative traits. To do this, we must observe ourselves without judgment because the act of judging is like putting on blinders. The process of self-appraisal is often affected by the programming of the cultural narrative.
Most people don’t recognize the programming of the Ego. They are firmly integrated into the cultural narrative because they immerse themselves in this programming every day. It comes through all media types and is promoted heavily by many trusted institutions. We’ll talk about how to see and correct this programming in a moment.
Embracing yourself just as you are is the key. It is the starting place on the map of change. So, it’s a paradoxical situation of viewing yourself but doing it without prejudice and bias. How is this possible?
The Curious Paradox Of Change
The environment we live in is continually changing. Our bodies change every day, but yet some things seem like they remain unchanged. It is the Ego that perpetuates the illusion that we cannot change. But, change is easy if we learn how to observe and transform.
Self-observation is a skill set that we can learn. It starts with learning to observe our thoughts without judgment. To do this, we must first distinguish between our thoughts and silence. We only reach stillness when we can cease our internal chatter. We do this through proper meditation. Then, we can observe the Ego. When we disengage the Ego, the real you can show up. When the real you is present, change is easy.
Once you can observe your thinking, you can see which ones are healthy and not. It isn’t as easy as you’d think because the cultural narrative disguises and taints various ideas to conform to a given set of values. Our cultural folklore gives positive values to some things and negative values to others.
Religious beliefs are one of the primary sources of society’s harmful programming. When you accept the belief system, you also accept its biases, prejudices, and fears. Here are some examples of these scripts:
- My religion makes me superior to everyone who doesn’t ascribe to it. Therefore everyone else is my enemy. I can use force to protect the boundaries of my beliefs.
- My religion tells me my gender is superior, which allows me to treat others as property. It gives me the right to tell them what to do, and it gives me the right to determine what they do with their bodies.
The goal is to see your behavior, decisions, personality, and instincts without value cultural judgments. That’s easy to say but challenging without some tools to accomplish this task. Once you can see the programming, you can see how it triggers our instincts.
As you begin to observe your thoughts, you’ll find many of the harmful programming scripts we learn to trigger the fight, flight, or freeze mechanism of the Ego. It’s the default settings of Ego which cause you to act out.
Understanding how your thoughts trigger these mechanisms allows us to observe and choose rather than act out. From this vantage point of reference, you can make desired changes in thinking and behavior. When I accept myself just as I am, I can change. It is the secret formula to move from Ego-edification to Ego-identification.
Ego-Edification Vs. Ego-Identification
Ego-edification is when you are under the control of your Ego’s default settings. From this vantage point, you think and behave in ways that are automatic reactions.
When you identify with Ego, you say, “I wish I hadn’t done that.” Perhaps you find yourself overreacting to situations. It feels like you aren’t in control. And that is the truth. Many people who live in this state say things like, that’s just me. I can’t change who I am. And, to some extent, this is true. They think they are their Ego because they have never learned to see it as a tool of consciousness.
You keep your default setting for life. But you can go beyond these settings. We all can change. It takes inner work to accept who we are. You can move beyond the curious paradox of ego-identification.
So, identifying how your Ego is in control is the first step. It’s the first step of serious “inner work” that will unmask personality and instinct. Observing the thoughts and feels of your Ego.
The intellect is a powerful tool. If we use it to observe our thoughts and feelings, we can move from reacting to choosing our actions. We can then decide to direct thoughts and feelings. We can choose positive over negative. When we understand, we can choose; it gives us a whole new perspective on everything we observe. When I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. The next step is now that I get who I am, I am now ready to change.
The Enneagram Personality Profile
The Enneagram is one of the primary tools we use in our blended learning process. We use it so that participants can begin to understand the difference between Ego and Observer. You aren’t your Ego. It’s just a necessary default tool that connects our body to consciousness. So, you don’t get rid of your Ego. Rather, you learn to move from the place of fixation to observation. When I accept myself as the Observer instead of allowing my Ego to control, I have the freedom to change. When I move beyond Ego, change is easy.
Identifying the critical components of personality and instincts is key to understanding Ego. The Enneagram is the tool that gives us a map of the psyche. It uses questionnaires to plot the default settings of our Ego. It is verifiable, and many healthcare professionals use it with clients.
It’s a scientifically structured approach to comparative religious study. It uses six steps of the scientific method to guide our research which provides consistent and accurate results.
It helps us stay on track and minimize our bias by understanding our assumptions. So, this process helps us make an honest appraisal of our worldview.
These are the ancient tools anyone can use for exploration and self-development. We divide these tools into four major categories:
It’s all about processes. It’s like a recipe for baking a cake. If you follow the recipe and combine the ingredients in the right way, you get something delicious. That’s what positive change is all about.
When I accept myself as I am, then I can change.
The desire to grow is natural. We start with the goal in mind. And we make “change” the priority. However, the key to change is understanding where you are now. You must learn about the starting place and accept it.
Learning about yourself means understanding your fears. It starts with facing our basic existential fear of death. Facing it is much better than using the counterfeit of the afterlife as an antidote. Instead of covering up our fear of death with mythology, we must ask ourselves questions about the meaning of our life and legacy.
Remember this vital formula. When I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.
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(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia