We live in a world that is dedicated to change, where nothing and no one is good enough. Change is a wonderful thing - it keeps us alive and growing. But it isn't the full story.
Accepting yourself and at the same time trying to change is what's called a dialectic - two things that are complete opposites and yet both are true. As she developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Marsha Linehan learned that seeking to change was an actual block to producing meaningful, life affirming change. People often think "if I need to change, then there must be something wrong with me." The reality is that we all can use a little positive change, but the only way to get there is to first accept reality as it is and accept who we are at this very moment.
Suffering = Pain + Non-Acceptance
Pain exists, it's a fact. If we fight back against pain and scream and cry and declare that it's not right, then we are not accepting and we end up in a place of suffering, in addition to the pain. Suffering is then, a choice. It makes the pain worse because we hold tightly to it. If we can accept that the pain is reality and not fight against it, then a release comes. I want to be clear here - accepting pain is NOT the same thing as saying that's it's OK. Accepting is not a judgement of right or wrong, it is a simple acknowledgement that something is.
If we can look at pain dead in the face and say "yep, I know you're here", then it begins to loose it's power. That's acceptance. Pain exists, suffering is optional.
Writer Ann Lamott describes acceptance of self with these beautiful words:
"We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found,
already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be."
Find the beauty within by just noticing what is. Notice the wonderful, the lovely, the feel-good stuff. Notice the not-so-pretty, the painful, the stuff you wish weren't true. Then make a choice to recognize that it's all true, and you can choose which part of yourself and the world around you to focus on.
I'll leave you with a gift from famous poet Mary Oliver...
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild gees, high up in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
If you feel stuck and want to make a change, or want help accepting yourself right now, give me a call. I'll help if I can, or I'll help you find the resources you need.