“Be — don’t try to become”
I thought I understood self-esteem and self-acceptance, but I have come to find out that self-acceptance requires way more than just awareness. I always thought my self-esteem was the issue. I can be a people-pleaser at times and too nice for my own good. I thought that was tied to low self-esteem. But, as I have done more soul-searching, I realized that my esteem is and always has been high. I have boundaries. There is just less that bothers me, in terms of extending myself, but I do say no when I really don’t want to do something. I am laid-back so I can seem very accommodating because I don’t view much as worth fighting over.
So, it is strange that self-acceptance is my issue, but it is. It is because self-esteem are the boundaries you create for others. But, lack of self-acceptance is the boundaries you create for yourself. And, often, we are harsher and have higher expectations for ourselves than we ever place on others. We will forgive others and let them off the hook while continuing to punish ourselves. We will also judge others harshly for the things we can’t accept within ourselves.
I had no idea that self-acceptance was my issue. I write about my flaws all the time. I thought that meant that I was aware of them. And, I am, but I have also been secretly punishing myself for them. This is the danger of self-improvement. You can get so caught up in improving yourself that you don’t see that you are actually demonizing the things within yourself that you are trying to improve. I skipped over the acceptance part and went straight to trying to “fix my problems”. I also set a goal in my mind that once I “fix myself” then I will find happiness and my life will be perfect. This also set me up for approval addiction. I have been searching for validation in others that I am “fixed.” Unconsciously, I slipped into my perfectionism and found myself behaving in certain ways trying to gain approval. I kept looking for the outside world to mirror back to me that I was accepted as a sign that I had permission to be happy.
It’s strange how you can think you are on the right track and end up right back where you started. I had a new mask under the guise of self-help. And, while my self-esteem was high and I could tell you everything about myself as if I felt at home within myself. I wasn’t accepting my flaws. I was secretly punishing myself in self-destructive ways. I was also pushing people away because I didn’t want them to see the things I didn’t accept about myself.
Once I became aware of it, I had to do something different. I have found that writing things down and getting them out of my head is a good way to lessen their power. So, I made a list of all the things I have had trouble accepting about myself.
The most notable was that I only allow myself to feel good when I am doing something destructive, such as drinking too much or avoiding something. I don’t validate the things that feel good when I’m not being destructive, I view them as being overindulgent. And, I go back to punishing myself for being overindulgent. To make it simple, good is bad and bad is good. And, good deserves punishment, so there is no way to win.
The next step was to look at this list of things and ask myself, Can I still love myself even if these things never change?
And, I looked at the list. I felt my disappointment as I first looked at it. And, then I looked at it a couple more times, I distanced myself more and more until they were just words. I looked at it as if it was a list of flaws in someone else I loved and thought about if I would reject them if these were their issues. I thought about how there are people in my life who have similar issues and I never rejected them or looked at them as if they deserved to be punished.
Even, if I try to change some of the things and they never change, I am still a good person and worth loving. And, that is how I found self-acceptance. It’s not something I do once and I am forever changed. I have to remind myself whenever I feel needy and insecure. I have to accept that as a part of my experience. I have to forgive myself for being human. I have to be a best friend to myself and give myself the same compassion I would give to anyone else in the same circumstances.
So, the answer is yes.