Accepting yourself for who you are can be really…challenging. There are constant pressures from society, from family, from friends to be someone you are not. And it can be hard to hear that quiet inner voice that is truly you, because that’s the real voice you should be listening to. And only by listening to that inner voice can you begin to accept yourself for who you truly are.
Do You Really Know Who You Are?
I am an introvert. I’ve only come to that realization recently, because, see..I’m not shy. I’m opinionated. I don’t think my friends would describe me as retiring. So everyone, including myself, assumed that I was this major extrovert. But I would go to parties or get-togethers and leave utterly, completely exhausted. I would often need days to recover from weekend acupuncture conferences. I kept wondering what in the hell was wrong with me—why was I so tired and cranky and irritated all the time? Was I anemic? Was I missing some key nutrient? Should I sleep more? Less? Workout more? Less? Was I depressed? Did I need new friends?
I began reading a wonderful blog called Introvert, Dear and learned that introversion isn’t what I thought it was. I began to realize that maybe I was not the person I had always thought I myself to be. Maybe I just need to listen to myself—really listen to myself–and not the litany of obligations that come with being a mom, and a worker, in modern day America.
Now, I am quite sure nobody in the entire free world cared if I went to bed early or stayed up late doing research or filing papers or cleaning my refrigerator or preparing dinner for the entire week in one evening, but I had (and still do have, to a degree) this idea that in order to be happy, I had to be supremely PRODUCTIVE. I always had to be “getting things done”. In fact, I was a big proponent of the GTD philosophy, and constantly read books and blogs on how to be more productive. I was always looking for ways to make my life more efficient and use my time more wisely.
Your List of “Shoulds”
But man oh man, was I tired. As I listened to my body and my mind more carefully, I began to realize that I didn’t WANT to be doing most of the stuff I felt compelled to do. But then the other voice in my head began “Who says it’s about want? It’s about SHOULD.” So I felt compelled by the “shoulds”. Here were some of my “shoulds”. What does your list look like?
- you should never have dirty dishes in your sink
- you should never be late for work
- you should always have a home-cooked meal for dinner
- you should never make mistakes at work
- you should never say rude things about other people (even if you’re really, really pissed off)
- you should make sure your children are polite and respectful at all times
- you should workout 4-5 times a week
- you should never overindulge in Ben & Jerry’s
- you should not read or knit in the middle of the day–day time is for getting IMPORTANT things done
- you should always make sure your finances are up to date and squared away.
- you should never buy frivolous items
- your house should always be clean and ready for the surprise guest
- you should be outgoing and attentive and make conversation at parties at all times, even if you’re worn out.
Listen, I totally blame Pinterest for at least half of these. But seriously, it’s exhausting just LOOKING at this list. So many “shoulds”. And of course, we constantly fall short. I mean, how could we not? But learning to accept that I not only didn’t want to do all these “shoulds” but that doing so was nearly impossible…that was hard. Even though on it’s surface it seems obvious–nobody is perfect–I think many of us have a hard time accepting that falling short is okay. In fact, it’s more than okay, it’s normal. And normal is good.
Accepting Yourself But Still Desiring Change
Can you learn to accept yourself as you are? Even if you want to change? That seems contradictory, right? Accepting yourself for who you are yet recognizing that there are things you might want to change, over time? For example, let’s say you eat poorly. Instead of eating fresh vegetables and fruit, you indulge in ice cream and hamburgers. You’re not happy about it, and you don’t feel good afterwards, but it’s what you do. Can you accept that you absolutely love the taste of ice cream and hamburgers, but recognize that over the long term, you might want to change…slowly? Or maybe you know all the negatives about indulging in the foods you love, but you just. don’t. care. You want to eat it. And you’ve made the informed decision that you’re willing to live with the consequences. That’s okay too. You make your own decisions, not your doctor, not your wife, not your friends.
How Acceptance Leads to Change
But let’s go back to wanting to change even as you accept yourself. It is by the very act of accepting who you are, right now, that allows true change to become possible. It seems counter-intuitive, but in my experience, it is the only way to effect permanent, true, deep change. You accept who you are, you don’t try to fight it, you listen to yourself and your needs and you DON’T dismiss them. Then, your mind becomes open to the possibility of change. It’s almost s though your body is so glad that it no longer has to fight for what it wants, that it begins to “listen” to other options.
Have you ever been in a fight with your spouse, and instead of arguing vociferously that your position is the right one, you looked at them and said “You know what? I think you’re right. Let’s do it your way.” (No? Hey, it’s new to me too, but worth a try!) Nine times out of 10 (if your spouse doesn’t fall over from shock), the spouse will say something like “Great. But hey, your ideas are valid too.” It might not happen right away, mind you–but often your offer of acceptance is like a peace offering, which allows the other person to soften and see that your ideas, too, might hold weight.
Your body and mind are the same way. Instead of fighting yourself CONSTANTLY to do things, be someone that you are not, you allow yourself to say “Okay, me, let’s do it your way.” So you giggle your way through a coloring book with your child (my son and I bought two copies of The Enchanted Forest and work on them together). You watch Step It Up (highly under-rated) in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. You spend a glorious afternoon completing four more rows on your never-ending knitted afghan. You make home made bread–without a bread machine. You go for a long walk with your dogs without bringing your phone, or your watch. You do things that you want to do, instead of things you should do. And slowly but surely, something shifts.
It might take a month, and it might take a year. You will have setbacks where you decide to do something you really don’t want to do, but feel you simply must. Mama said there’d be days like that. But that’s okay too–accept that, too. Accept that you are not perfect, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. You are perfect and beautiful just as you are.