BY Bex Olver
Self-acceptance is not easy. It takes ages to acquire and it’s not always pleasant events that allow it to happen. Achieving self-acceptance and becoming whole is a long journey and often a complete pain in the ass. But it’s also vitally important for a happy, healthy life.
Acceptance, evolution and becoming whole are monumentally terrifying words – and quite rightly so. Most of the people I know who are happiest in themselves have been through something pretty horrid; a bad relationship, family problems, an illness… insert your life-changing event here. It always seems that it’s the hard stuff that teaches us the most about ourselves. I guess that’s because when we’re happy and everything is going smoothly we’re not challenged. There’s no reason to stand our ground, summon all our strength, accept sh*t will be hard and do our best to get through it.
For me, self-acceptance is a fairly new concept. Feeling comfortable in my own skin is something I like and it’s certainly not something I had in my 20s. Without self-acceptance, I wonder how people can ever be truly happy. How can you be if you’re constantly beating yourself up for having faults?
My own path to accepting myself just the way I am was not pretty and I do not profess to be whole at all, but I’m a lot more whole than I have ever been. The younger me gave herself a hard time because the person I was did not mirror the person I wanted to be. I could not accept that I was a good person while I had flaws.
At the time, I was miserable and suffering terribly with anxiety problems. If I’d not finally accepted the fact that I needed some help with straightening myself out, I’d still be in that miserable place, thinking that everyone was better than me because I wasn’t like my stupid ‘ideal’ in my head. The minute that I stopped struggling, cut myself some slack and accepted my worrying and stressing was out of control was the moment I started on my journey to self-acceptance.
I feel a bit stupid admitting to this but I’m going to put it out there anyway. I’m sure everyone else knows it and I was in the ‘slow to pick this up group’ but, if you’re human you will never be perfect. Yes, you can admit to streaks of awesomeness, but there is no good without bad. Craving perfection will only lead to trouble because it can never be achieved. And anyway how can you be perfect to everyone? Perfection is like beauty – it’s subjective and in the eye of the beholder. We’re human and we have bad bits but this does not make us bad people – it makes us just like everyone else.
I turned to counselling to help me get through my anxiety and once I got in the big squishy chair and started talking, I was forced to look at the way I was behaving and the things that I believed in. Counselling creates a safe place where issues, fears and confusions are free from judgement. It says and reinforces the one thing that isn’t said enough in modern society; it’s okay to feel the way you do and it’s normal to struggle with things.
Whatever the catalyst to self-revelation, it then leaves you in no man’s land with no after care manual on how to deal with the fall out. Among other things, I learnt that I’m contrary, impatient and very judgmental. I did not like finding this out. Once you learn about yourself, whatever it is can’t be unlearnt and so an evolution or ‘penny dropping’ stage begins. Counselling allowed me to reassess my outlook on life and learn some important things about myself. I felt crappy that I’d got some things so wrong and while I took it all in and digested what I’d learnt I felt a little fragile. All it took was time; time to work out what was valid, what wasn’t and time to understand.
Understanding why we do what we do allows us to grow and evolve. You can take on board your flaws, accept them and allow your understanding to help minimise their future impact or you can deny them completely. I’ve known people who chose the latter option and they were some of the unhappiest people I’ve ever met because they could not accept the way they were.
Self-acceptance can’t be forced. It takes time to learn and very often we have no idea we’re evolving towards it when we’re in the midst of a maelstrom. It’s only when you look back at your starting point that you can see how far you’ve come. In the middle of the funk, all you can do is have faith that the storm clouds will part and that a glimpse of sun will shine through.
As great as being young is, I’m not sure we have the maturity to accept ourselves, short comings and all. Maybe rare individuals can, but how many times have you heard the phrase ‘Youth is wasted on the young’? Certainly the life experience we gain as we grow up helps to support self-acceptance and allows us to evolve into a more whole version of ourselves. Carrie Bradshaw summed it up pretty well in Sex and the City, ‘The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.’
Featured image by Loving Earth on Flickr