I have major problems with self-acceptance.
Here’s the thing – I work in an industry where we are constantly trying to help people to love and accept themselves and I understand that this is a key to feeling good and healing both physically and emotionally and all the rest of that. We say it like they are the same thing: self-love and self-acceptance, and in reality, they have to be pretty closely linked because how can you love that which you don’t accept?
And yet this is where I struggle. For one simple reason that might sound silly when I say it out loud, but here it goes: I want to be better. At everything. In almost anyway that you can think of:
- I want to be a teacher so good that I can hear the neurons crackling around the room as everyone becomes enraptured with the wonders of the body and Specialized Kinesiology;
- A mother that is kind and patient and loving even on the worst day;
- Fluent in at least 3 languages and able to ask politely for people to bring me wonderful things to eat and drink in many more;
- A time-ninja so efficient that every day seems to be the perfect length, and everything gets done;
- With a body that is fitter, stronger, sexier than it is now.
- (And, as long as we’re listing things, I wouldn’t mind making some more money either.)
I want all these things, and in wanting these things, I have to come to grips with the fact that I am not really these things now. Sure, I am a decent teacher, loving mom, reasonably healthy, etc. but having these goals means understanding how far away I am from this ideal me, right this second now. And though it is not going to be a popular thing to say, I think this is one of the places where we get stuck as individuals. We let ourselves be lulled by the “I’m OK, you’re OK”-ness of our current society and so we lose the need to push ourselves. It’s easy to coast. Everyone’s afraid of burning out.
And because I don’t want people to misunderstand, I know there are many where simply being able to get through a day is an accomplishment. People living with constant pain and chronic illness and mental distress, and I want to make it clear that I’m not talking about that here. Many of these people end up in my office and I see their struggles and bravery. I think of the classic ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz, and I understand that we all just need to do our best and that looks different for each of us and changes from day to day. But this again brings me back to my original point; how can I be self-accepting if I don’t feel like this is me at my best? If I can clearly see this better version of myself, just out of reach on the horizon?
All I really can do at this point is channel that dissatisfaction into motivation. Using that gap between the me I want to be and the one I am now to push me harder; to study, to learn, to exercise – to do the things, even when I don’t feel like it. I do these things precisely because I do love myself and want to have my best life and want to give what I can to those around me.
Self-love and self-acceptance – not the same thing.