Me too Popeye. I am what I am and that’s about it. To be clear I’ve wanted to be different and over the years I’ve given it a good try. When I was young I was a malleable Gumby person trying out ways of being in the world so I experimented with alternate personas. Kind of like sampling the food at Costco on a busy weekend. I tried it all including the slant of my handwriting. I must have thought left-leaning handwriting was sexier but it never took. Except in politics I lean to the right. I also wanted to be a laid-back love-in hippie but it just wasn’t me. I’m too tightly wound for that, I needed more of a plan, a goal. I had more in common with a heat-seeking missile. I also wanted to be a party-loving extrovert. In that futile endeavor I went to many a party but usually spent time trying to figure out how to sneak out because, duh, I’m not a party-loving extrovert. I’m a book-loving-couch-warming introvert. And now, finally, I accept it. I am what I am and that’s all that I am.
The struggle to be someone we’re not takes a toll on us. As an introvert I was often criticized for being “unfriendly” or a “party-pooper.” Such helpful feedback. Since extroversion is more valued in our society, I often pondered why I couldn’t be a gregarious gal and concluded I must be fundamentally flawed. Then there was the issue of physical appearance, something women waste precious life energy trying to mold, modify, update, or rearrange. Enough already. I came out of the womb with a round belly. It took a brief leave of absence when I was 9 but then it came back. No exercise, dieting, potions or even illness was enough to make my belly go flat. I have a baby-bump-belly without the baby. Sometimes it’s bigger, like I must be having quintuplets, and sometimes it’s smaller but it’s always there. It’s just my body. So I got over it. No more wasted energy worrying about it. In fact, it’s kind of nice to have something to rub and a place to prop my book when reading in bed.
Self-acceptance and self-esteem are closely related but are not the same thing. Self-esteem is how we evaluate ourselves and there’s a continuum of esteem ranging from a totally inadequate despicable shameful human being on one end to an amazing totally special and unique human being on the other. Neither of those extremes are helpful in any way. This is one time you don’t want to be an outlier. Better to be somewhere in the middle with a healthy dose of esteem tempered with humility.
Self-acceptance is one of the attributes that contributes to self-esteem. It means you’re able to see yourself realistically as a full human being with both positive and negative aspects. It does not mean you never strive for improvement but you know perfection is not attainable. If you’re still trying – give it up. Some of us have big bellies. Some of us are irritable more than we should be. We have big noses, we’re bad at math, not artistic, the list goes on. But we might also be kind, funny, compassionate, good at poker. All of us are a blend of positive and negative attributes. Strengths and “weaknesses.” It’s all relative. Most people protest that they don’t seek perfection but it’s human nature to compare ourselves to others. Often one thing at a time. Think about that. You make note of someone’s beautiful cheek bones and simultaneously consider your own cheeks which you believe need red spray paint to be seen. You’ve just checked the box of “inadequate.” You hear someone speak eloquently about a political issue while you’re thinking about how you don’t read enough to understand much. Another check mark in the inadequate column. At some level, often automatic, we make evaluations like that all day long. Check, check, check. Bummer. Nothing good can come of it because a lack of self-acceptance contributes to higher levels of anxiety and depression. It also makes it harder for us to regulate our emotions and makes it more challenging to manage stress. Basically it sucks all around.
So that’s it. I’ve wasted enough life energy trying to blast my butt, tuck my tummy, or become a genial laid-back lover of all things social. I’m throwing caution to the wind and embracing my imperfections as well as my strengths. Give it a try.
Read more about nurturing self-acceptance here.