“WHEN YOU KNOW YOURSELF, YOU ARE EMPOWERED. WHEN YOU ACCEPT YOURSELF, YOU ARE INVINCIBLE”
Instead of starting the year resolving to fix whatever you think is wrong with you, why not start with a clean slate? Stop comparing yourself to who you use to be, or want to be, or who you think you should be. Accept who you are right now.
Acceptance and I have a rocky past. We all have things we like and don’t like about ourselves or our circumstances. If we let these things define and consume us, it can lead to pain and anxiety. If we choose to acknowledge them and put them in their place, we can begin to move forward. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean you’re choosing something. It means you recognize that at that moment you can’t change things, so, for now, you’ll be at peace with it.
When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2002, acceptance did not come easily for me. It was a process that took me years. I did not want to believe that I had an incurable disease. It made me think I was abnormal and faulty. I felt like I was somehow broken. That I was something that needed to be fixed. That I was something that couldn’t be fixed. It was unnerving to be told that my only choice was to take the medication with dangerous side effects that might slow down the inevitable but would not heal me. It was a devastating realization to know that I might end up disabled. I was only 35 years old.
So, I ignored it. I understood the diagnosis. I took the medication. I quietly dealt with the symptoms and the relapses. I lived my life pretending to myself that nothing had changed. But my life had turned into a silent struggle. I never expressed my feelings about having MS. I should have let myself grieve for the things that I could no longer do and have focused on new things to experience and enjoy. One day it occurred to me that life would be so much easier if I just shared how MS was affecting me. How could I expect anyone to understand what was happening if I didn’t tell them? How could I tell them if I didn’t admit it to myself? I knew I needed to finally accept how MS had changed my life and confront it. I needed to say it out loud and talk about it. Pretending was exhausting and self-destructive.
Once I had accepted that my life had changed things got easier. I was able to see my situation in a new light and not necessarily a bad one. This new version of myself tired more easily, stumbled a bit, missed more events, and forgot stuff but nobody cared that I couldn’t do all the things that I once could. I didn’t have anything to prove. I had put that on myself. I was still the same person I always was. I was the one who had forgotten that.
There is something very empowering that comes from appreciating and valuing yourself. You begin to view circumstances differently. The weight on your shoulders feels a little lighter. You see possibilities instead of obstacles. You realize that nothing is inevitable. Your life will be whatever you make of it. Acceptance is not about giving up, it’s allowing yourself a future. It gives you a deeper sense of who you are and what you are capable of. You allow yourself the freedom to be yourself. Self- acceptance is tied to self-esteem and can affect your physical and mental health. According to an article in the Harvard Health Blog, people who accept themselves have more gray matter than those who think negatively about themselves, and that poor self-acceptance affects the region of the brain that controls emotion.1
Don’t make resolutions trying to fix yourself, you are not broken. Instead, celebrate your strengths. Make a list of what you like about yourself and what you’re good at. Acknowledge how you positively impact other people’s lives. Don’t settle for less than you deserve, especially from yourself. Don’t let worry, disappointment, self-doubt or fear leach the joy from your life. Know your worth. Don’t worry about who you used to be and embrace who you are now.
Acceptance is the first step toward believing in yourself.
Do you struggle with self-acceptance? Take a few moments to acknowledge these feelings. What will it take for you to accept this part of yourself? How would that change your life? Do you need to release denial, anger, fear, hurt, judgment? Think about what is making you hold on to these feelings. Visualize what your life will look like if you let these things go. How will that make you feel? Content? At peace? Happy? Hold onto that feeling as inspiration to trust in yourself and accept all of you. You are good enough just the way you are. Right now. Today. Remember that!
Happy New Year!
- Pillay, Srini, Harvard Health Blog, “Greater self-acceptance improves emotional well-being” May 16, 2016, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/grater-self-acceptance-improves-emotional-well-201605169546