Why I Stopped Beating Myself Up

I’m lying on my bed right now, laptop in my lap, pretty much unable to move.

This morning, while I was getting into position for my morning yoga practice, I wrenched my lower back and collapsed onto my mat.

The pain shot up my spine, down my legs, and left me shaking and gasping.

And you know what? It’s all cool.

Self-Acceptance: A Cornerstone of Business Success

I realize this isn’t my usual article, chock full of business strategies and online marketing tips. But truth is, business tactics and strategies are only as effective as the human beings who execute them. 

And one of the biggest stumbling blocks for entrepreneurs is a lack of acceptance.

Of ourselves. Of our situations. Of our incomes. Of our achievements.

What is Self-Acceptance?

Many people confuse accepting ourselves as we are with passivity.  Like, “If I accept myself as I am, I won’t be motivated to change.”

I’ve tried to grow by beating myself up. Sometimes a hit of self-cruelty can get me moving, but not in a useful way. Who wants to do business with someone who exudes self-loathing?

Back to the Back

I’ve had episodes of crippling back pain since my early twenties. And ever since I started reading mind/body books (in my early twenties, coincidentally), I’ve beaten myself up about my back pain.

“You’re doing this to yourself with your stressful, negative thinking.”

“You didn’t get back pain when you were running 5 miles a day. Why’d you stop, you lazy bum?”

“You’ll never cure this, no matter how many different body workers you see.”

So being cool with it is a big thing for me.

I’ve also had trouble accepting my business limitations. I used to  get hung up on the fact that I was consulting for people who were richer than I was. My thought pattern went like, “When this guy
discovers that you aren’t kicking it in business, he’ll realize you’re a fraud and will fire you instantly.”

And because I’m a business consultant, I can muster up lots of self-judgment about my own failures. I have trouble budgeting. I can spend days in unproductive wheel-spinning. I’m not making
as much money as I should be making.

All that heavy judgment is the opposite of acceptance. And you know what? As much as you might think that being hard on myself would motivate me, it doesn’t.

Non-acceptance blocks gratitude

Because all that non-acceptance makes it hard for me to connect with gratitude and appreciation. Heck, I’m doing pretty well, aren’t I? I can provide for my family. We took a month off and went to Africa this summer. I own a $40 pair of merino wool boxer shorts. These achievements are nothing to scoff at.

But as long as I’m comparing myself to a more preferable, more acceptable Howie, I can’t see or appreciate any of the good.

And when I can’t be grateful to the universe for providing, why should it send any more good stuff my way? When my kids don’t say “thank you” I’m less inclined to do nice stuff next time. Why should Reality be any different?

So I’m pleased to report that I’m handling my temporary back situation with calm acceptance. Wherever it goes this time, it’s fine.

And I’m fine.

If I could have done anything differently, I would have. So this pain is simply an invitation to explore a profound opportunity for healing.

I’m learning to accept myself in all my glorious imperfection.

And it’s a gift I’m glad to be receiving in my 45th year.

Acceptance enables spontaneous action

When something in our lives or businesses isn’t as we’d prefer, we entrepreneurs take action.

When we’re mired in non-acceptance, our actions are not fully conscious of the Reality of our environment. They’re impulsive, often too forceful or too timid. Not in proportion to the Reality of the situation.

We’re too much in our own heads and not cognizant enough of the playing field to be truly effective.

When we accept the situation and our own role in creating it, without beating ourselves up, we are free to be spontaneous, to deal with whatever is out  there (or in here) with fluid grace and just the right
amount of power.

Reality check: There’s nothing unacceptable about us

I get so many emails from readers who feel the need to apologize for their lack of knowledge, or savvy, or success.

Underlying these apologies is often a palpable feeling of shame. Like they believe business building, making money, marketing online are so simple that there’s something wrong with them if they aren’t raking in the bucks in a few hours a week.

Please know: you have nothing to apologize for.

Whether you are raking in the bucks, or have a business that’s limping along.

Whether you have a business, or a vague dream.

Whether your click through rate is 4.3 or 0.2.

Whether you’ve spent your last $24.95 on AdWords For Dummies or your last $2495 on a marketing seminar.

Whether you’re taking swift bold action or you’ve been procrastinating and buying info-products and doing nothing for years.

None of this has anything to do with your real worth. Or mine.

An alternate vision of motivation

Once we tame the demons of “gotta prove myself worthy” and “I’ll show them” and “gotta be rich to be OK”, what motivations remain?

Just a couple: Joy and love.

Joy for the sweet pleasure in expressing ourselves through our work. Bringing the best of ourselves out of our heads and into connection.

And love for others, manifest in the excellence of our service and our commitment to value.

Do you know any businesses that operate on joy and love? I can think of a few – Dr. Holstein, our pediatric dentist in New Jersey, whom we still travel hundreds of miles to see; the Mustard Museum in
Mt Horeb, Wisconsin; my coach Christian Mickelsen’s business; to some extent, the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team. And some others.

These are businesses that I support, not just because of the service I get, but because joy and love are infectious and I often want another hit.

Whatever we sell, we’re selling to human beings.

And whatever humans want or need – more money, a hot car, a thriving business, status, sex, power; deep down we think those things will bring us joy and love.

Why not serve joy and love with every helping anyway?

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17 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • Matthew said on October 21 2009:

    Hey Howie – I don’t have an eloquent or particularly insightful response to this post. I just want to thank you for putting pen to an important attitude that we all can benefit from.

    You’ve given yet another reason to value your blog.

  2. #2 • Lloyd Matthews said on October 22 2009:

    Hi Howie,

    Very thoughtful piece of writing. I understand what you are saying, as sometimes you can be easily mislead as to what is important when you are running your own business. My own experience has taught me that providing you have a roof over your head, enough food to eat and the people you love in your life around you, you are in fact a King among Kings – Lloyd

  3. #3 • Chris Horner said on October 22 2009:

    First of all, wishing you a speedy recovery. Secondly, this was an outstanding and insightful post. Thank you.

  4. #4 • Glenn Livingston said on October 22 2009:

    Howie, very inspiring and honest post :-)
    (I’ve been lurking you know)

    I recently read an article about the impact of internet connectivity on our self image, and most specifically, our “comparative self esteem”

    The premise was that 10,000 years ago, we could only compare our skills to a small, local group of hunters and gatherers. And the odds that every person in the local group could find a vital role to play were virtually 100%.

    Now, we compete against hundreds (sometimes thousands) of marketers worldwide for 11 spots on Google’s front page in our market, or we basically don’t get to play. Plus, any one of the almost 7 Billion people on the planet can decide to join the game at any time.

    Using wildly inaccurate and conservative underestimation to make my point…you’ve really gotta be in the top 1% (at least) to have any chance at all.

    So 99% of AdWords marketers are constantly comparing ourselves to the top 1%, then walking away with our tails between our legs. And it’s only going to get worse.

    There’s something wrong with this set up, don’t you think?

    Nice to see you getting so honest to help ease the pain. I’ll try to reciprocate!

    Now, call me sometime before I stick my head in the oven OK? (My guinea pig ad dropped from position 3 to position 5 and I feel like such a failure. I just can’t show myself in public anymore) :-)

    I hope your back feels better soon!

    PS – It occurred to me the other day that you and I could start a site called “Jewish Docs who Love AdWords”… now there’s a microniche we could dominate pretty quickly. Let’s give it some thought… we could be kings and hold our heads high again!

  5. #5 • Dan Perach said on October 22 2009:

    I saw an older relative the other day walking with crutches. He said it was the years of running. I’ve never been a runner, so I don’t know from experience, but I definitely recommend regular walking, and yoga ;)

    Glenn I didn’t know you were juicing too ;)

  6. #6 • John Chancellor said on October 22 2009:

    I am glad you are accepting the condition of your back but I still hope it gets better real soon.

    Both you and Glenn touched on a common problem with humans. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others. But we generally do not recognize the fallacy in this comparison. When we engage in comparison, we are forced to compare what we see in others – the outside – and we compare it to what we feel inside. We will always come up with a poor comparison. We are not comparing like to like.

    And your point is right on. Beating ourselves up serves no useful purpose. We need to understand those things we can change and improve and those things beyond our control. Change the things we are capable of and accept the rest.

    Good food for thought.

  7. #7 • Denize said on October 22 2009:

    Thank you for putting things so honestly, Howie.

    I’ve been feeling like a fraud both at my job and my business- mostly due to my own self critism.

    Today I am going to try your approach. I love the contribution that I am able to make at my office. Providing parents with books that make their children excited about reading brings me joy.

    I just need to work harder at some of my work and business activities and accept that I am learning along the way.

  8. #8 • Gabriella said on October 22 2009:

    Great post Howie, as usual! ;)

    I am starting to sound like a broken record…. BUT… I lost all my clients in the same day in the downturn. No savings… spending money like water… (only recently learned about something banks offer… it is called a savings account… am checking into it for future income)… ;)

    Totally freaked when I lost my biz, as they were all referrals and all the same product category. In 4 years I had not branched out, as I was so busy and financially comfortable. And, all my clients were referrals for years. I had done zero networking or marketing.

    That is when I decided to do internet marketing, and built my first site. I lost so many good leads the first 6 months because I had no idea what I really wanted to do. I felt like such a fraud, being a one man shop, but actually an agency. My belief: that advertisers want a company to support them, not some one man shop. God forbid I got sick and could not work. I had so much ‘split’ energy in how I was representing myself, and what it is I really wanted to do.

    When I took your course, it immediately became for me (and still is) an ongoing course OF INTEGRATING ME WITH ME. The more accurately I reflect who I am on my site and in my internet marketing, then the more I can look at all those clicks where people left after scanning page 1 – and just say: “OK… I said who I am AUTHENTICALLY… so we must not be a match.

    Of course I continue to look for ways to improve my communication, but I am so at peace with Jessica’s statement: that you know you are writing to the ‘right’ person, because you will feel a sense of ‘confidence’ when you have written it. That is what happened to me from Traffic Surge, Class one.

    My clients I have obtained from the internet are so small (for what I was used to) … yet my long time arrogance has been humbly replaced with gratitude that my daily needs are met. :) That is what the downturn had to offer me. Is some humble gratitude for what I do have. These clients have great products, and are loyal and appreciative. I have also made alignments with larger companies for outsourcing what I don’t want to do, in my one man shop.

    It is sooooo me to help the small guy market his products out into the world… but I was ignoring the humanitarian in me, to get the big bucks. And what for? I just spent it all anyway… always needing the next big financial hit… ultimately just chasing my tail.

    I feel between the downturn and your course, I am learning a steady acceptance, of SELF ALIGNMENT in me and my business… that is veddy veddy good! ;)

    I daily work to replace fear with trust, in that alignment, and honestly am looking forward to what the future will bring!


  9. #9 • Larry Hassman said on October 22 2009:

    Howie – what a great sharing of such personal stuff. It redeems my faith in what a wonderful race we human beings can be.
    I continually fight off what I call the “tryanny of shoulds” which can leave me tangled in sheets and blankets during a toss and turning night.
    I have thought lots on my living a life free of inculcated illusions of money and status. I try, not always successfully to live my life – One day, one moment if need be, at a time. I am sure more thoughts will follow – Looking forward to ringofire [if I ever figure out a way to get in]
    Take care of yourself – and thanks for being greater, deeper than a commercial self. larry

  10. #10 • Howie Jacobson said on October 22 2009:

    Just listened to Paolo Nutini’s Simple Things this morning. It resonated, especially after writing this blog post and getting so much warm and thoughtful feedback.


    If you love the life you live
    Then you’ll get a lot more done
    Be more inclined to take the reins
    Than turn away and run
    It’s very rare it seems to get a lifetime guarantee,
    So I suppose self satisfaction be the key
    My father is a wealthy, self made man
    But his wealth does not consist of riches or acres of land
    Instead he has a family who are
    His biggest fans
    That’s something that I one day hope to have
    So I’ll cherish the simple things
    The easy took for granted things
    Like going round my Mum’s house for my tea
    And argue with my sister,
    Only God knows how I missed her
    It’s the simple things that mean the most to me

    Argh, he gets up each day at five
    Starts the car and makes the drive
    Shutters up, starts the fryers
    Serves out food to all the buyers in the town
    As they stand there in the same old line
    Get there every day at the same old time
    No, you never hear him grumble and groan
    Cause they’re the people in the line that he built it on
    And like me he cherished the simple things
    The easy took for granted things
    Like going round his Mum’s house for my tea
    And argue with his sister,
    Only God knows how he missed her
    It’s the simple things tha mean the most to… him

  11. #11 • Brian said on October 22 2009:

    Hi Howie,

    I really enjoyed this post.

    You and I have never met, but because of your books, webinars, online business, nice family and your drop-dead-funny writing style…I just assumed that you had it all together. Very superficial of me, I guess.

    Thanks so much for exposing yourself (figuratively, of course.) and letting me know that I’m not alone in spinning my wheels, doubting my every move and sometimes using myself as a punching bag.

    I feel that I know you better. And I like the fact that you’re not the perfect guy that I assumed you to be. I feel uplifted by your candid and personal admissions and insights above.

    Thanks for brightening my day with a wonderful dose of reality.

    Hope that you feel better soon.

  12. #12 • Steve Juth said on October 22 2009:

    Great post, Howie! It’s amazing how much attitude can influence our mindset and success/failure in many dimensions of life (not just business). Like the others commented, it’s refreshing to see someone like yourself show their vulnerabilities, which we can all certainly relate to!

    I hope your back recovers soon.

  13. #13 • Kevin McGee said on October 22 2009:

    Thanks, Howie, for the post and the invite to the ROI revolution content; most coaches wouldn’t do that – let alone admit ‘on the record’ that it isn’t an affiliate pop.

    BTW, as a former runner who is older than you, I have observed that when my back fails it is invariably linked to Some Other Stress in my life. (It sometimes takes a bit of discernment to locate it…) Just my experience and yours may certainly different.

    Strengthen the core, stay the course, onward.

  14. #14 • Mamoon said on October 22 2009:

    Hi Howie,

    Just wanted to say that I got your email and it was touching. I like the way you give us real valuable content, and a touch of personality. Keep up the great work, and I’m praying (in a non-denominational kind of way ;o) for your back to heal up.

  15. #15 • amare said on October 22 2009:

    Totally fabulous and surprising posting; I wouldn’t be surprised if you recovered from this episode faster than any other one before. And I certainly wish for that. In my view pain can be one of our greatest teachers and the ability to ride it out is an undervalued luxury.

  16. #16 • Katherine Andes said on October 24 2009:

    Hi Howie, I’m just joining in to your blog and I want to learn more deeply about AdWords. It sure seems confusing.
    I especially appreciate your sharing … I’m sitting with a hot pad on my back just now. I was just sharing the other night about how odd it was that so many of my successful business clients like my consulting advice … and it’s not like I have a stellar record re. business success for myself. Though it finally seems to be coming together. When I advise my clients to do something, I try to do it for myself. That helps. Howie, I will pray that your back gets better soon.

  17. #17 • jackie caggz said on October 25 2009:

    Thank you Howie –
    We beat ourselves up so badly at times that we forget to look “outside of ourselves” and see our lives from that simple perspective of joy and love. My children are healthy, my wife still loves me (most days anyway) and I’m able to get up and go at every day (oops, sorry about the back Howie).
    So I’m going to stop saying “when I grow up, I want to be just like Howie” – I already am.
    Thanks for the continued inspiration – Jackie Caggz