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4. I sometimes have trouble accepting myself for who I am. What can I do?

The chess-board metaphor

Think of your thoughts and feelings as chess pieces on a chessboard. Think of the white pieces as the thoughts and feelings you want (e.g., "confidence", “happiness”, “self-esteem”), and the black pieces as the thoughts and feelings you don't want (e.g., “anxiety”, “fear”, “self-doubt”, “hopelessness”). If you prefer, you can think of the black pieces as the desired thoughts and feelings, and the white pieces as the undesired ones.

Figure 1 : The chess-board metaphor

One thing we humans do is try to defeat the black pieces. We want to get rid of our negative thoughts and feelings. So we go to war. At difficult times in our lives, it looks like we’re losing—the black pieces knock most of the white pieces off the board. At other times it may look like we are winning. We knock many of the black pieces off the board.

But look closely at your experience. What happens when you knock those black pieces off the board? Do they stay off forever, or do they come back sooner or later? Or do you find sometimes that new black pieces take the place of some of the old ones? It’s like a war that rages forever, with no end in sight.

The problem is, when we wage this war, we wage it against ourselves. When we battle the black pieces, we battle a part of our experience, a part of ourselves. We literally set up a situation where, in order to get on with life, large parts of our actual experience must disappear forever. This war carries a heavy cost. We can become absorbed with our internal struggles, and disconnected from the outside world and the things in life that matter most to us. We can become so absorbed with our internal struggles that we don't "see" the outside world.

But what if it’s possible to let go of the fight? What if you are the chessboard in this metaphor? Regardless of how the war between the black pieces and white pieces turns out, is the chessboard affected or damaged in any way? Or is the chessboard simply an arena where match after match can play itself out—and the board remains solid and intact, ready for whatever comes next. In the picture above, you could imagine the man lifting his head up and walking in any direction he wants to, regardless of what the chess pieces above are doing. What if you could focus your energy on doing what you want, and carrying the positive and negative thoughts with you?

Remember, there is a distinction between your thoughts and your observer self. Think of the observer as being the chess-board—as being you. Think of your thoughts and feelings as being the chess pieces. The chess board carries the pieces, but it is not equal to the pieces. Similarly, you carry your difficult thoughts, you observe those thoughts, but you are not equivalent to those thoughts.

Let's do another exercise that will help you to contact your observer self.

The observer exercise (Audio)






1. What can I do about my distressing thoughts and feelings? 2. What if I struggle and struggle and seem to get nowhere?3. I don't want to be pushed around by my thoughts and feelings anymore.
What can I do?
4. I sometimes have trouble accepting myself for who I am. What can I do?5. How do I live a life that matters?6. How do I stay committed to my values even during the difficult times?