It’s all over your therapist’s mouth. It’s all over the internet and Barnes and Noble. Even Justin Bieber wants you to do it. Self-acceptance is the new kale, and although it’s just as good for you, it’s really uncomfortable. The books and TEDTalks preach mindfulness and compassion, but they gloss over the parts of the process that are more a slap in the face than meditative.
I spent the last year experiencing a flood of “negative” feelings – burnout, depression, anger, guilt, regret, disappointment, etc – which sucked, but was an indication that something needed to change. I learned, as many of us do, that self-love and acceptance are useful tools in dealing with negative thoughts. These are the things that have taken me by surprise, but not off my path to being kinder to myself.
You’re no good.
Not all of the time. No one is anything all of the time. People do nice things and they also do shitty things. You’re no exception. Before you can accept yourself, you have to be honest about who that is – and it’s not all honor and integrity. Self-acceptance means embracing all of it – good and bad. Getting real with myself has been hard. I’m more selfish than I care to admit. I spend more money on my nails than I do on my nieces. I decline holiday invites with “nah, think I’ll stay home” instead of an excuse. Most days, I call it assertive, but I do struggle with feeling heartless, especially when I say “no” to people I care about. Learn to be okay with your decisions, even when you make a mistake. And you will. And that’s okay.
Way more empathy. Way less judgment.
When you get so well acquainted with your flaws, you become much more tolerant of other people because you see that we are all connected. You are not above anyone else. The traits that you once found annoying start to bother you less because you recognize them in yourself. What you once called deplorable, you’ll call “doing the best he or she can at the time.” There was a time when I would never steal my friend’s man. Until I did. My roommate’s. It was mean and a mistake. I apologized and it was awkward for years, but we’re better friends because of it. When someone talks to me now about their illicit past, I listen with a true acceptance I never knew until I truly accepted myself.
There is no right and wrong.
There is only perspective and communication. Don’t get all morals crazy on me. I’m not talking about truly depraved acts of evil like rape and murder. In everyday life, it’s rare that anyone is wrong 100% of the time. Most times, people act from their perspective. It takes more effort to understand another point of view than to label someone an asshole. It takes even more effort to determine what you need from this person (if anything) and ask for it. You get to decide who you do this for. Does it benefit you to delve into Donald Trump’s upbringing and figure out what makes his tiny hands twitch? Probably not. Is it worth thinking about how your parents’ immigration to America influences what they want for you as an adult? Likely, yes. Again, you get to decide, and that’s the most empowering thing about self-acceptance.
You are now responsible…
…for making changes in your life. And people don’t always want that. Now that you’ve reflected the shit out of yourself and are on good terms with your shortcomings, you have the knowledge to do something about it. You can’t change the past, but you can do things to move towards a happier future. But it takes work. It feels easier to spiral down and be comfortable in your malaise. I have to force myself to write, exercise, call someone, feel shitty, then get back up. The process is really difficult and pretty unlikeable at times – just like you, but you knew that right?