Embodied Self-Acceptance: a Pathway to Authentic Leadership


Recently I went to Spirit Rock to listen to Jack Kornfield speak. His is a beautiful energy and whilst I was drawn to his words on the importance of beauty in our lives, what had most effect on me was the power of his presence.

He exudes a rare comfort in himself that is both engaging and empowering to be with.

His talk was not full of clever gimmicks, or visual aids. Neither did he bounce around his stage revving his audience up, as so many motivational speakers are inclined to do. He simply sat with a pile of poetry around his feet, reaching for a poem now and then, with a warm smile of invitation and seemingly little plan.

It had the intimacy of being in a living room with a benevolent relative who was simply talking about what he loves. Which in turn reminded me of what I love. He was simply being himself with no need for performance or production.

The power of simply being who we are!

We see it in young children, their ability to stand firm in who they are, before they have learned to absorb and then embody the discomfort of others who may judge and criticise their behaviours and being.

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken” is something all of us have heard, but it is no less true for its familiarity.

The people that we inherently trust enough to listen to and follow are the people who sit genuinely comfortably in being who they are. We can instinctively pick up when someone is less than self-accepting, trying to be something they are not or needing to fake the truth of who they are.

The people and leaders who we are inclined to trust are those who embody a genuine self-acceptance.

And yet it’s striking how hard it really is for most of us to simply be ourselves; to fully live an embodied self-acceptance.

It has taken me years to excavate who I really am outside of the cultural and familial conditioning that shaped me. And, however hard I seek to live my life in authenticity, I am still not always successful in throwing off the expectations and demands of others for me to be a different, seemingly more desirable, self.

I have built so much of myself in response to others’ disapproval; it is a new skill to stand unapologetically in the ground of who I really am.

Even personal and spiritual growth can fall into the trap of seeking to create an improved model of who we are. True self-acceptance runs deep; and takes a great many years, if not life-times, to truly own and then embody.

But those who live it offer something all of us can gain from. In his quiet, unassuming way, Jack Kornfield’s gentle presence entered into me. I notice I am walking through my week just a little more heart-centred, a little more loving. And that love is focused inward, towards my own self and not just the other.

Raising our capacity to be kind to ourselves is where all true transformation begins.

The paradox is to accept ourselves right where we are, even in our pursuit of growth and expansion. Because the biggest evolution of self lies in the truth of when we start to love and accept exactly who we are. And the biggest evolution of society will happen when there are enough of us who know to live that.

Our world needs embodied human beings that can be kind to themselves and therefore others. Great leadership begins from within. We need leaders who can feel their own hearts and see the hearts of another.

To be present to another we have to tolerate being present to ourselves. And, to be fully present to ourselves we have to learn to like ourselves.

So, this week, I invite you to give being just a little kinder to yourself a try.

Here’s a short, simple exercise on Cultivating Self Acceptance that may help you (or your clients) with this:

First, catch yourself in some of those moments when you find yourself being particularly self-critical or disapproving – I can pretty much guarantee there will be moments like that!

Once you have noticed it, try taking a step back from that voice. Try to notice what that inner critical voice says to you. Notice its tone, choice of language.

Then, evoke a kind and compassionate inner observer. An inner part of you that can distance yourself from that critical voice; a part of you that is able to not identify with that voice of self-hatred.

You may want to personify this Inner Observer. Perhaps evoking the archetype of a truly loving and nurturing mother with a small child; or a benevolent and compassionate mentor or guide. Make it personal to you. The important piece is that this observer part of you embodies the qualities of kindness, care and compassion.

Then, see if in those moments of self-judgement, and, with the help of that inner and kind observer, you can distance yourself from the critical thoughts, long enough to feel how that inner criticism actually hurts you.

Let yourself feel the pain of that inner un-kindness. If that feels hard to access, ask yourself how someone you love might feel if you spoke to them that way.

And finally, see if you can offer yourself some comfort, and choose a more loving truth to tell yourself, or find a kinder choice of action.

Remember that this voice of self-criticism is deeply practised and therefore wired within you, so invite compassion for that truth too.

For true shifts to happen in this arena, cultivating kindness to self needs to become a daily practice, something we do over and over and over again, to truly forge new pathways, that in turn allow us to embody self-acceptance.

The path to self-acceptance is slow and subtle.

And, it is transformative.

As always, I’d love to hear your comments and reflections. And, if you liked this blog post, and would like to read others, please sign up to my email list, where you will receive my weekly blog posts, further exercises on Embodied Self-Acceptance and information on future retreats and workshops that I will be hosting CLICK HERE.

And, if you haven’t already, please join my Facebook page and add your comments and reflections there.


  1. Beautifully said and so true. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I have just been pushing myself to get various chores done when I don’t feel well and now having sat down and read your blog, I am going to give myself the evening off! The voice of ‘you’re lazy, keep going’ has diminished. Thank you.

  3. Thank you for reminding me of that the path is slow and subtle AND transformative – that I need to take a moment to reflect in order to see the long way I’ve actually traveled one small step at a time.

    I like Jack Kornfield too and his quiet, compassionate presence. And, if you have the chance, visit a satsang or intensive with Adyashanti, who is based in San Jose and quite often have shorter events in Palo Alto and Berkeley and yearly retreats at Mount Madonna in Santa Rosa and Asilomar in Monterey. His teachings are the most profound I’ve ever heard and his energy is strong, deeply compassionate and yet also challenging, and wonderfully playful. One of my deepest dreams is to return to California and attend his retreats. One day…

    • Thank you Marie; and I have heard only great things about Adyashanti and plan to hear him soon. May your dream come true; and let’s hold an intention that our paths cross again in one of his retreats!

      • I’d be very nterested to know how you experience his energy so am already looking forward to read about that on the blog. And yes, a deep deep YES to that intention!

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge