I debated back and forth for awhile as to whether or not I should share this story, and if so, whether or not it technically belonged on here. It’s an acceptance-related personal experience, to be sure. I’m not sure if it may be too specific to just me and my life, but if it can do some good and resonate with someone else out there, helping them out in the self-acceptance department in some small way, I think it may be a story that needs to be told. And now that I’ve disclaimered myself to death …
Surprisingly enough, self-acceptance is still a yet-to-be-touched-upon topic on Acceptance Revolution, but I was reminded recently just how important it is, not only to always try to meet others within our community where they are, but also to meet ourselves where we are and to recognize the positive qualities we have to offer… particularly when we are feeling attacked or judged in some way.
I’m going to try to stick to bare bones facts as much as possible here, in the interest of not turning this story into a “he said, she said” scenario. Without (hopefully) airing too much dirty laundry, I’ll just say that I recently learned that someone I had connected with on a pretty deep emotional and spiritual level was apparently (and completely unbeknownst to me, although, had I known, I would have been more than open to possibilities… but that’s neither here nor there at this point) “considering” me as a potential dating/relationship prospect. What with that whole not knowing about this factor element at play, I continued along in my blissfully ignorant single girl’s mindset, coming and going as I pleased… until a gossipy instigation by a mutual acquaintance brought everything that had been previously left unspoken out in the open. The interference by this third party apparently also served to bring out a second-guessing in regards to the aforementioned “consideration.” The verdict – or the gist of it, anyway – was that I’m apparently too social. When I think of how many nights I end up either staying in with Redbox or wondering an hour into an evening out at a club why the hell I decided going there was a good idea in the first place, this is definitely news to me. As further evidence, the following example of two hypothetical couples was submitted to me: Couple A are well-adjusted individuals in a happy, healthy, loving, and faithful committed relationship. Couple B are an utterly dysfunctional pair who habitually lie to and cheat on each other and then cry to their friends about the inevitable, ensuing drama that results from such behavior. The judgment was that, given a choice between which of these two couples to choose as friends, I wouldn’t choose; I would keep them both around because “everyone is just a-ok with [me].”
Upon reflection, this is likely a true and accurate statement. The part that’s not sitting right with me, however, is that – at least as it was presented to me – this is something I’m meant to feel bad about and recognize as a fatal character flaw within myself. Now don’t get me wrong, I can certainly recognize where problems could arise, and I’ve done my share of wrestling with them in the past… but, through that struggle, I’ve also learned to compartmentalize really well. I have (and still do) worked hard to cultivate the important skill of defining clear boundaries for myself and honoring those boundaries. When I found myself sobbing hysterically to a room full of strangers in an N.A. meeting a few years back because my ex refused to recognize her addiction problem and I didn’t know how to help her and had no one to call in for backup to help me, that was pretty much as good a wakeup call as any for me to decide to sit down and figure out the precise method of how I could go about flipping my own mental scripts in order to make damn sure I could prevent ever allowing another person’s issues to impact me, my life, and how I showed up in the world ever again. And I did it. I now know how to differentiate between simply bearing witness to another person’s trials and tribulations versus feeling the need to also bear the responsibility for them. I know how to be compassionate towards a fellow human being who’s creating suffering in his or her life without condoning the negative behaviors they engage in that contribute to the creation of that suffering. It wasn’t easy to achieve, and now that I’ve been made to really examine and think about it all, I’m actually damn proud of the fact that I’ve managed to do so. Like many people, I’m my own toughest critic, and as such, I almost never stop to notice the good in myself or feel pride in my accomplishments. And I need to. We all do.
I’m a yogi. I run a website called Acceptance Revolution. If I didn’t display this capacity for acceptance and compassion to some extent, I’d be a hypocrite. And I’d be doing my authentic self a massive disservice in the acceptance department to boot. Whether or not I’ve given myself credit where it’s due, I’ve worked hard to get to this point, and by the way, no, it doesn’t always come as naturally as breathing. But I work at it because I believe it matters. Because it’s a capacity I have strived to develop, and I believe it’s an asset. I don’t believe that it’s something everyone in the world absolutely must cultivate, and I don’t believe that I’m any better than anyone who hasn’t done so; we all have different strengths and bring different things to the table. And yes, of course, my personal boundaries may differ from those of others… that’s the point: we all find what works for us and conduct ourselves in accordance with our own individual capacity. However, in the case of anyone in my life whom I might take into “consideration,” I would hope that – while, of course, they would look out for me if they saw me start to be negatively impacted by someone else’s problems – they would also recognize and accept and appreciate that attribute of compassion and acceptance in me… even if it was just in the form of an eye roll and a declaration that, “Wow, Couple B is too much; I don’t know how you put up with them… but I love that about you. That’s such a beautiful quality in you.” Because there isn’t a whole lot that I naturally notice and appreciate about myself, so it’s nice to hear that acknowledgement every now and then. In fact, I’m not even sure what it was this time around that helped me to stop and think about it and recognize this trait as a positive one in myself rather than immediately going into internalized criticism mode (particularly since it was a criticism from someone whose opinion I value)… but whatever it was, I’m beyond grateful that I’ve somehow managed to go against the grain and accept myself this time around. That is something I believe everyone in the world absolutely must cultivate: meet others where they are, but don’t forget yourself. Don’t ever forget to recognize and appreciate your own innate goodness and attributes, and to give yourself due credit for them. After all – to paraphrase a Buddha quote – you yourself deserve your love and acceptance just as much as anyone else.
© Kristin Despina for Acceptance Revolution, 2012