For me, self-acceptance is the most difficult part of the journey. Self-discovery, self-care, even my grasp on my self-esteem is easier than finding my own sense of self-acceptance. I think it’s because there is always this little voice in my head telling me I could do better. I could have been a better mother, I could be a better daughter and spend more time with my mom, I could have been a better student in high school, I could have … I could have. I could have.
I can find moments of peace in my heart knowing that I really did do all I could. I know without a doubt that I tried as hard as I could in my first marriage and it just didn’t work out. I know that I’m doing all I can with my second husband right now. There are good days and bad days, but I know I’m doing my best. I also know that finding time to meditate almost every day, go to therapy (I accept that I’ll probably do that for the rest of my life) and attend my Al-Anon meetings has helped me so much in my ability to accept myself.
And yet there are days when I just feel like I did so much, I tried so hard, and there aren’t going to be enough years left in my life to do everything I want to and be all that I want to and I just feel like throwing my hands up and admitting defeat. Then I get in a mood of self-acceptance, but the negative kind. I accept that I will not ever be the archaeologist I wanted to be, I will not ever travel everywhere I want, I accept that I wasn’t a perfect daughter and I have no idea how to relate to my mom, especially now that she is in the throws of Alzheimer’s. I am willing and able to accept all the bad things and I get in a funk.
I guess that is where self-care comes in the most. I have to stop and breathe. I usually end up going to the grocery store and grabbing some ingredients for something I’ve never made before but always wanted to and I cook. I do laundry, because folding clothes is therapeutic for me (I’ve been doing it most of my life). And since I’ve figured out that I can run again like I did in junior high and high school, I’ve been running, a lot.
Self-acceptance is something I have to really work at. I have to stop and think about it everyday. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I do have some regrets, like burning 10 years worth of journals in a moment of embarrassment and anger, but I have to accept that as far as I know, this is the only life I will ever get to live. No one knows if we are reincarnated, if our souls live on, or if we go to heaven and float on clouds forever without a care.
This is it!
What I do today, tomorrow, and onward until my life is over is up to me and I have to accept myself, as I am and I have to hold tight to the goodness in my soul and the badness in my soul and know that those things make up me and my life and that I’m doing the best that I can.
I try every day to accept that about myself and love myself, not in spite of it, but because of it.
- Awareness Meditation – for just a few minutes a day, be conscious of your thoughts, both the good and the bad and be OK with whatever comes up. Accept that your mind will roam into negativity and stress, but that’s OK. If you take a few minutes to just relax into that, you can go easier on yourself and boost your sense of self-acceptance.
- Don’t think of yourself as Good or Bad – you are a person who does good and bad things. You cannot be 100% all bad all the time, and you cannot be perfect. Try not to rate yourself. It helps.
- Make a Gratitude List – I learned this one in Al-Anon, but it is not only beneficial to 12-step work. When you take a few minutes and write out the things you are grateful for it helps you realize that even though things may not be going the way you want, or you are feeling badly about a mistake you made, if you consciously think about what you are thankful for in your life it perks up your mood and you can be more open and accepting of yourself. I spent 90 days writing out three things every day that I was grateful for, and I went an extra step and made sure those three things did not have anything to do with another person. Making my personal gratitude list helped me accept things about myself that I took for granted and it really got me thinking.
- Take a Look at the Bigger Picture – by taking the time to see and acknowledge an entire experience you can find happiness in the successes, but also learn from the failures. Even in a failure or a bump in the road, there is a lesson to be learned and by accepting that, you can move on to a new adventure with more life experience.
- Be Compassionate with Yourself – a friend of mine told me that honesty without compassion is cruelty. How many times does that little voice in your head tell you something honest about yourself without any compassion? Be kind to yourself. Even when you are all lost in the thoughts in your head and thinking you really messed up, be kind and compassionate with yourself. And when you forget that and you are wallowing in self-pity and thinking all the worst things about yourself, let go of it and find your inner kindness. It’s in there.
- Keep a Close Circle of Friends and/or Family Who Accept YOU Just As You Are – I spent a couple of years with a boyfriend in high school who critiqued my clothes and my hair and told me what to do. I thought just being in a relationship made that OK. My first husband didn’t like my laugh and said it was too loud and it embarrassed him. I had a friend recently who kept going on and on with advice on what I should do on a big decision I was trying to make. Every time I talked to her she would ask me if I did what she told me to and if I didn’t do exactly what she wanted she would jump into a lecture. Self-acceptance is important, but it is difficult to hold space for that when people in your life are only conditionally accepting you. Hopefully you have friends or family who love you no matter what. Keep those people close.