🌱The happiness lesson we can learn from Imbolc
🌈An ancient Irish celebration of hope
Hello and happy Imbolc to you! Today I’m sort of writing to you about an ancient Irish festival. But I’m mostly writing to you about your intrinsic worth as a human being. Cool? Cool. Ok, let’s jump in!
Imbolc: Herald of Spring
The ancient Irish festival of Imbolc falls today, February 1st. It’s one of six annual festivals of the erstwhile Celtic world, and was considered a special time for magic and merry-making. Imbolc celebrates the hopeful coming of Spring and with it, the opportunity to start afresh. The word ‘Imbolc’ means ‘in the belly’; it’s the time of year when ewes are pregnant. Equally, the year itself is filled with possibility and expectation. Imbolc is a celebration not of Spring’s arrival, but of its promise.
Imbolc reminds us to celebrate progress over perfection
Happiness, knowledge, not in another place, but this place,
not for another hour, but this hour.
- Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, ‘A Song for Occupations’
In celebrating the first glimmer of springtime’s slow unfurling, Imbolc reminds us to celebrate our own budding efforts.
I’m guessing one reason you may have signed up for The Happiness Letter (thanks again for doing so, by the way – I’m honoured to be in your inbox!) is that you’re interested in personal development. Hurrah, me too! Self-confessed self-help nerd right here. I’m fascinated by human nature, and by our potential to evolve emotionally, spiritually, and creatively. But I’m not so keen on self-help that upholds an ideal self you should aspire to, and which proffers the notion that you’ll only be happy once you transform yourself, your habits, your circumstances, etc.
Pinning your happiness on future successes hampers your enjoyment of the present. Rather than deferring happiness and self-acceptance until your goals have been achieved, I propose something revolutionary instead. Loving yourself just as you are. No really, I mean it! Just as Imbolc celebrates Spring’s promise rather than its arrival, I encourage you to celebrate your efforts rather than achievements. Cheer your progress rather than perfection.
Practicing self-kindness in this way is what psychologists call unconditional self-acceptance. And I am here for it.
What is unconditional self-acceptance and can I have some, please?
US psychologist Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, believed that basing our self-worth on external factors such as beauty, intelligence or our achievements causes us to be unhappy. Ellis found that when we aim perpetually to be the most successful version of ourselves, it makes us miserable due to our inevitable failures and constant comparisons. When we focus on an idealised future self, we focus also on the ways we don’t measure up.
Ellis advocated practicing unconditional self-acceptance. How does one do that, you ask? You’ll need to learn how to do something extraordinary and unfamiliar – be kind to yourself. Any time you consider yourself less valuable or less lovable – due to a setback, a rejection, or an unattained goal – challenge the core beliefs and assumptions behind your harsh judgements. Recognise and embrace your intrinsic worth. Value yourself just as you are – an inherently good person in possession of infinite promise. Whatever your present flaws or past blunders (we all have plenty), remember that you’re a uniquely miraculous human, with an innate capacity for love and kindness; which you would do well to direct towards yourself from time to time. 💛
Because my surname is Spring, Imbolc is a personal favourite festival of mine and it inspired the above thoughts this week. Today is also, as I’m sure you know, Chinese New Year. Happy Year of the Tiger!🐯