The Difference Between Accepting Yourself As You Are And For Who You Are

If you think about it, human beings are the only species that have relationships with themselves.

We don’t only live to survive, we live to understand our survival. We live to analyze. To craft an image of ourselves that is “acceptable” as we have been conditioned to understand it. To believe that following and outlined trajectory will yield our own contentment and happiness. Just the fact that we can be aware to the degree that we feel that yearning for awakening and lightening and overcoming and joyousness says something. The fact that we absolutely torture ourselves over even the simplest of daily transgressions says even more.

We accept this torture as the human condition, as an unmoving, salient part of our existence. We regard the physical as the only; our shortcomings faults we have to live with forever. We accept ourselves as what we are and not for who we are, mostly because we don’t care to look beneath the surface.

Even the simple idea of an “us” is created by our minds. It’s a fictitious definition from which — and by which — we think we will find love and companionship and meaning and purpose and acceptance. It’s also the thing in which we find the most fault because those things do not come from an idea of a self.

When I was in high school, there came a point in which it made me so sick to look at myself, even in little glances and passings by, that I took orange construction paper that I had left over from a project and covered every mirror in my room with it. I remember it being strange, getting up from my bed in the morning and not even evaluating how much my upper thigh jutted into my other one, that the image of myself was completely gone — replaced instead by a sad, orange void.

My appearance seemed the easiest thing to digest — the part of me that was so consumable, so readily available for other people to judge. Of all the things of mine that could be improved upon, it was the thing that was never good enough. And the more I was attuned to how imperfect it was, the more it drove me insane. Because I couldn’t fix it all. And at some level I didn’t want to. But that didn’t stop the voice of “nobody will ever want you this way. You aren’t good enough.” And of course, that voice didn’t just say that in regard to my physical appearance. Rather, it was an allusion toward the fact that I didn’t feel worthy in any other way, so to take the thing that was most easily understandable, was the fastest, most natural thing to relay that frustration on.

An admission like this isn’t exactly easy or unembarrassing to make. But I do it, as I do when admitting to all the unbeautiful things about myself, with purpose. I came to believe that getting to a point of being okay with my body was accepting that I had flaws and that that was okay. That I would just have to deal with always being a little insecure.

We tend to accept ourselves as a matter of course. It’s what’s preached to us all the time: that all of life and happiness and goodness can only begin with accepting ourselves as we are. As we are.

When we accept ourselves “as (what) we are,” we’re overlooking a huge aspect of that overarching statement: there are parts of us that are not really us. There are things we’re holding onto, pain we’ve identified with, labels and titles and issues that are so part of our lives we make ourselves them. We’re insecure, we’re nervous, we’re anxious, we’re this and that and the other shitty thing. And then we just not only become “okay” with that, we placate it into existence by doing so.

I learned that I wasn’t an insecure person, and that the insecurity wasn’t what I had to accept. I didn’t have to accept myself as I was, I had to accept myself as I wasn’t — when I removed myself from all of the ideas of who I should be.

Or rather, what I really mean by this title is: don’t accept yourself how you think you are. People often take their resolvable issues, their blocks or whatever, and let them be part of their lives because that’s “part of who they are” when it’s not. It’s what they’ve come to learn is a part of them, what they’ve been told is a problem, all the little poisons they’ve let sink under the skin. But those don’t have to be there. You can heal yourself.

All I had to do — and all I eventually did do — was take down the construction paper and stare at myself and realize that I wasn’t insecure by the virtue of having to accept that I was imperfect and that’s something I’d have to live with — but because my subconscious, inner monologue kept telling me that I was unworthy and unlovable and never going to find or achieve anything. That nobody would ever love me. And because I stayed trapped in these beliefs, two things happened: I fought harder than I ever thought I could for what I wanted, but I also blocked out a lot of the joy and happiness along the way. I sought accolade and approval and merit so ardently that I completely missed the fact that receiving those things doesn’t make you happier. Being present does. Loving your life and doing what you enjoy, on a simple, moment-to-moment basis does.

What I had to do, and what we all have to do, is take the papers off our mirrors and sit and illuminate the part of our subconscious conversation that tells us we aren’t enough, we’re supposed to be anxious, life is supposed to look some way or another, and even when it’s most uncomfortable, sit with that running current of thought until hot tears are streaming down our faces as we realize what we’ve been chanting to ourselves all along.

All we really have to do is shine a light in the dark closet, and realize there aren’t any monsters inside. All we really have to do is pull down the orange construction paper and realize that our fears aren’t real, they’re just stories we tell ourselves. TC Mark

image – Flickr/Haley

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