Letters From Camp: Self-Acceptance and Play

Self Acceptance | Amplified Good Positive Psychology Coaching and Counseling in Portland

Dear Readers, 

I saved this camp letter for last because it was the hardest to write.  

I have trouble before camp every year.  I get worried I am not fun and playful enough.  I worry I won't measure up to other staff in their silliness and creativity.  I am much older than I was when I started volunteering, and I am just not as outgoing as some of the other folks who show up.  

The last two years I have been applying the learning and materials I use with others as a Daring Way facilitator on myself because I have felt so stuck about this (if you want to learn the basic process, sign up for my newsletter because I will be leading it online very soon).

As I worked through the process it became very clear how far I have moved away from my playful self as adulthood, professionalism, and responsibility has set in.  Somehow I haven't been able to figure out how to have these two parts of myself coexist.  

And every year I experience insecurity and jealousy related to other staff members who seem to do it so effortlessly.  So this year, instead of just watching them have fun and feeling all the feelings on my own, I decided to go to the source and interview an expert in fun about how she does it.  

When I interviewed my friend I was surprised to learn a few things.  

I am fun.

The first thing my fun-mentor told me is that she sees me as very fun.  She said she always has a lot of fun being silly with me and she was surprised I don't think I am playful enough.  She listed off all kinds of things she thought were fun about me. 

This made it clear that at least part of this story is all in my head.  What would I be like if I just let myself believe what my friend believes about me?  What if I am fun? 

Is there a similar story you are carrying around about yourself?  You're not ______?  Check it out with a friend, or ask yourself- what if I stopped believing this story?

When I stopped believing this I actually had a really good time at camp playing, dressing up, getting messy, and laughing.... until...

I am not fun.

Until my role got in the way.  I was asked to step into a new role this year, and much of my work in that role is similar to my job as a therapist.  Helping people find balance, practice self-care, and communicate amid conflict.  Now, I like to think there is more laughter in my sessions than many therapists could claim, but I do still take my work very seriously and when I get called away from playtime to help others, I get my game face on. 

The truth is I am a balance of both serious/professional/grounded and playful/creative/fun.  By focusing on only one side of myself I ignore other valuable parts of myself and fail to see the beautiful complexity that makes me unique.

Are there ways you might similarly ignore parts of your shadow- or less desired self that ultimately get in your way?  I find it useful to make a list of all the positive attributes of my shadow pieces to remember how they serve me.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Either way, I am enough. 

The biggest problem in all of this is the lack of self-acceptance that brought me to stop embracing play in the first place.  In both Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, Brene Brown talks about the lack of creativity so many adults face for fear of mistakes, embarrassment, and imperfection.  We worry if someone sees us being silly they will lose respect- and we'd rather have respect than fun. 

However, play and mistake-making are essential to innovation and creativity.  The story we tell ourselves (they will lose respect) blocks us from the kind of creativity that will actually earn respect in the end.  And the power we give their respect- that our self-worth relies upon it- overwhelms us and keeps us small. 

When I interviewed my fun friend this really stood out.  She just accepted that she would (literally) fall down sometimes in front of people, that she might not look professional, or that they might think (in her words), "All kinds of things about me.  But the thing is, Gina, I can't control what other people think of me, so why would I spend time worrying about it?  Why would I let my worries about them stop me from being who I am?"

When we learn to accept ourselves imperfections and all, we stop worrying about managing the perceptions of others and we can start showing up to play better with others.  

Ask yourself, what would be different about today if I stopped caring what others think? 

Love, Gina