My wonderful dear sweet angel of a therapist requested I write on this topic specifically. (I think that must mean I’m starting to get the hang of this whole thing.)
So here is my take on how I have been able to discover myself and accepting myself as I am for who I am – not who I wish I was.
Let’s start with the whole acceptance of self. That’s going to be a little difficult if you don’t know who you are. I think that who we become is part who we actually are, and a pretty large part what has influenced us. Programs we have been indoctrinated with. Habits we picked up from the people around us. The way our parents spoke to us, the way they loved, or didn’t love us for that matter.
I think you’re born yourself. And slowly over time life leaves it’s mark on you. An analogy that I heard and really liked was to picture our brains as a mountain with a fresh layer of untouched powdery snow. Now imagine people skiing down your “brain slope”. Each one leaving it’s mark….at one point your brain mountain is filled with grooves from each pair of skis (doctrines/habits/thought traps etc). In order to deal with this we have to be aware of it first and foremost. Take stock of how life has affected you. After your inner evaluation you can decide which grooves you like and want to keep and which you want to flatten out so you have room for new things that are authentic to you.
But I digress. For some people acceptance of the self may come naturally while for others it is a genuine fight. We have been pretending to be other people for so long that we have forgotten who we are. What’s helped me to become myself more and more everyday has been to go back to the hobbies and activities I enjoyed doing as a child. Things that brought me joy and I wanted to do before someone told me or I heard somewhere that I “won’t make it” in x-field, or that I am not “good” at x-activity. Which is such a silly thing when you come to think about it – why do we need to be good at something in order to do it? Isn’t that such a voyeuristic perspective? Why do I need to be good at something in order to pursue it? Why can’t I be bad at it and enjoy doing it for the simple process? The act in itself? Being?
And that’s where it starts. Killing the perfectionist in you that never allows you to start things. Shutting up the voices that say you’re bad at that and no good at the other thing.
The important question boils down to one simple thing.
How does “x” make you feel?
“X” in this scenario can range from a person, an activity, an item, a place. Remember to check in with yourself. How does it make you feel? Got it? Good.
Here’s a not so secret secret. YOU have the power to change anything in your life. You have the power to say,: yes, no, maybe, or not today. USE IT. This is a superpower. And especially for women and people who are not white, for the first time in centuries we CAN.
Now this change in thought process is going to make you start living a life for yourself – not one that you think others want you to live. There are many people who have their whole lives planned out for them. They know what school they’re going to go to, how they will live, who they will marry, what they will eat, wear, speak about. How do you know these things? How can you plan every little thing when you don’t know if you like those things? Is it because everyone else is doing these things and likes these things?
Which leads us to the next part – being okay with being different. Society has trained us (and very well I might add) to fear being different. Not fitting in. Thinking or dressing different. Speaking different. This aversion to being different is not an inherent human behavior. It is thought and learned. If you look at young children and the way they interact with each other they do not differentiate within each other. They start doing this when they are a little older, and more often than not this is because of parents or other people in their lives who have influenced them in this manner.
Being different could put you in psychological or physical danger. Something which most of us are trying to avoid. Yet, we are so lucky to live in the times we do today. We genuinely have any opportunity at our fingers. The real thing that is stopping us is ourselves.
Here’s another secret. The more authentic you are to yourself (even if that is totally different from everyone around you) you will start to attract people who like you for you. With all your differences. That’s most likely because acceptance attracts acceptance. Like minded people will be drawn to you and appreciate you for your candidness. For your authenticity. Be different. Take a chance on yourself. You might be surprised with who you discover yourself to be.