He laughed a little bit then said to me,
“you act like someone who doesn’t believe good things can happen to her”.
This is what someone said to me once, discussing my tendency to be highly suspicious of positive things that come my way. He was sitting behind me holding me close with his nose nestled in the deep of my neck, with his soothing voice trying to lull my fears by listing countless reasons why I made his heart sing. But with each reason I’d feel myself drifting further away which he felt in the stiffness of my shoulders, subtly trying to break free of his embrace. He laughed a little bit then said to me, “you act like someone who doesn’t believe good things can happen to her”.
He was absolutely right. If like me the only relationship you’ve have with yourself is one of self-loathing, you know it’s quite difficult to believe yourself worthy of happiness. For much too long I firmly assumed that the only way to grow was to focus on my imperfections. Counting all my shortcomings was the only way I thought I could improve, but the issue is that instead of being solution-focused, self-loathing disempowers you.
You begin to see yourself as only the accumulation of everything wrong with you, and nothing else. Because of that, you tend to either see yourself as unworthy of any good thing that comes your way, or constantly striving for the next goal on your list because you are never doing enough to deserve happiness. There is always more weight to lose, more yoga poses to master, another promotion to gain, a better wardrobe to acquire. You spend hours in front of the mirror picking yourself apart. Hours reading up all the self-improvement books that are out there. Beating yourself up every time you miss a workout. Holding on to any mistake or rejection you face because it confirms what you already believe about yourself, yet never taking any praise or declaration of love, because it must be a mistake. There’s always more to do and you are never enough, never worthy.
I know, you might think how else then can I become a better person if I don’t self-scrutinize? How else does one improve without hyper-awareness of one’s flaws?
That is where we discover the concept of self acceptance. Wellness Activist and New Times best Seller recently gave a talk at Oprah’s SuperSoul Sessions, in which she describes the concept of self-acceptance.
“Self-acceptance is about honoring yourself, accepting who you are right now in this very moment. Not just who you could become somewhere down the line, when we create a mythical better version of ourselves.When we seek from a place of lack or deficiency, we create more suffering in our lives. But when we seek from a place of wholeness, that’s when we grow in a sustainable way”.
Suffering is the key word for me here. That which arises from the burden of unworthiness. Suffering, that which creates in us a relationship of both bully and bullied, abuser and abused, battlefield and casualty. That is the only thing that arises from navigating your life on the basis that you are unworthy of anything the world has to offer. You can within you a feeling of uneasiness and skepticism about everything. You are forever chasing dreams, goals and happiness, yet even when it comes your way you can never fully relax in the bliss of it. Self-loathing never allows you to say yes to positivity. It is pernicious, it wants to keep you rooted and sinking deeper in your own darkness, and you are forever putting your life and happiness on hold, for later, for that day you finally reach your goal weight or job, or relationship, or whatever else.
However, stepping into self-acceptance allows you to see yourself fully, wholly, not just your imperfections. To be aware of things that need improvement but to not allow them to become your only identity. Self-acceptance gives you permission to breathe for a second, because as Kris Carr says, “we don’t need fixing, we need loving“. Self-acceptance allows to root for yourself for once, to give yourself permission to love and be loved as you are. Self-acceptance allows you celebrate yourself wherever you are such that even as you seek self-improvement, it become about adding more light to what already exists within you. It transforms your relationship with yourself so that you might let go of the knot that sits in your chest, the paranoia that leads to always wait for the other shoe to drop, the fear that can never do or be enough to deserve good things.
Self-acceptance is what allows you to believe that good things can happen to you too. So that when your partner is holding you, nose buried in the deep of your neck, counting all the reasons why he’s lucky to have you, you will let yourself be loved. You will allow yourself to melt into your partner’s arms and relax into the love pouring all around you. Instead of doing like me, and thinking of all the ways you can escape because this has to be too good to be true, because you are not worthy, because you are the girl who doesn’t believe good things can happen to her.
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.