Growing up in poverty as a minority created feelings of inferiority for me as a young child. It was something I carried with me into my early adult years. I didn’t understand what self-love was and often cared too much about what other people thought about me. I did the best I could to be a good daughter and a good student, because I thought that was the way to be accepted. I had people pleasing tendencies and often didn’t have the courage to speak my mind.
It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I realized the main person I needed acceptance from was myself. As great as it would be to get approval from all the other people in my life, it was liberating to know that I didn’t need it to feel worthy. For someone living with a mental disorder, I soon learned that I can allow that to keep me stuck, or I take steps to move towards accepting everything that made me who I was.
Dating was particularly tricky for me after I was diagnosed. I felt the need to inform the person I was dating about the fact that I live with bipolar. Because the diagnosis is a big part of me, I thought it was something that should be disclosed before the relationship became too serious. But not something I would open up with on our first or second date. The timing of when to bring it up was complicated. A part of me didn’t want to scare away the other person, but another part of me felt that if this was something they couldn’t accept about me, I wanted to know immediately because it wouldn’t work out. There were relationships in which I searched for something wrong with the other person so I wouldn’t have to tell them because I knew it wasn’t going to work out anyway.
My self-acceptance was a gradual process that took time to develop–it is still going on to this day. But it wasn’t until I came to terms with who I was, that I was ready to share this information about myself to others with less fear of rejection. I don’t envy those who are going through this awkward phase of finding who you are after being given a diagnosis, while also trying to have others accept that part of you. However, I have discovered that when you accept yourself, it will be hard for others not to. And the people that don’t, were not meant to be in your life anyway.
The main thing to keep in mind is not to hang your hat on other people’s reactions to your disclosure. From your end, you are sharing something extremely personal and vulnerable to another human. We all have expectations of the response we hope to get, but if their reaction disappoints you, don’t make it mean anything about you. That person just doesn’t have the ability to be open to what you are telling them. It’s better to know the truth and be able to move on than to give away the power of how you feel to someone who doesn’t deserve it.
In the early days of my diagnosis I criticized myself for the weight I gained when I looked in the mirror. When extended family members made comments about how much bigger I have gotten, I felt even worse about myself. The older Asian generation is not known for their subtleness and have a tendency to point out the obvious without thinking how the comment will be received. I remember using those negative comments as fuel during all my running sessions. At the time, I knew I let what other people said and thought about me affect the way I felt but had a hard time controlling that.
I later realized, as much as the judgement from other people motivated me to lose weight, it wasn’t the only reason. I wasn’t acceptable to myself. Carrying the extra weight was not healthy for me, physically or emotionally. When I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, it made a huge impact on the way I saw myself. I felt better when I liked the way I look, but never obsessing about needing to be unrealistically thin. When I took care of what I put into my body and what I did for my body, I felt better all around.
Self-acceptance is extremely important for those living with any kind of disorder or diagnosis, whether mentally or physically. We were dealt a hand that is less than ideal. We have a different set of rules to follow in order to live a “successful” life, however success is defined for you. My intention is not to paint with a broad brush because I understand everyone comes from all walks of life and has their own struggles. But for me, when I discovered the power was in my own hands to create the life I wanted, it was empowering to know the first step to getting there was my own self-acceptance.
To put it simply, self-acceptance means you like who you are. Maybe not all aspects of yourself, but overall you like yourself as a person. We teach others how to treat us. If we think positively about ourselves, other people will sense that and treat us with that same level of respect that we think we deserve. This does not mean you should disregard other people and only behave in your own best interest. Self-acceptance brings out the best in us, not the worst. When you have acceptance of yourself, the byproducts that come with that include: self-esteem, self-confidence, self-compassion, and self-reliance, just to name a few.
As I was thinking about this topic of self-acceptance, I was reminded of a podcast episode from The Life Coach School, by Brooke Castillo. It was episode 410 called, “The Parts of You That You Don’t Like.”
In this episode, she basically says we all have things about ourselves that we don’t like, and that’s okay. We don’t have to judge it, we can just acknowledge it and accept those negative parts of us. Rather than avoiding or resisting the parts of us that aren’t so great, we can embrace them. That is when true self-acceptance happens.
When you don’t feel good enough, that most likely stems from a part of you that you have not fully accepted. I occasionally have days where I know I could have done better, but I no longer judge myself for it. There are a number of things about myself that I don’t like. But I have learned to accept most of them and slowly working towards the ones I want to change.
I like to have a sense of control, pertaining to things that affect my day to day life or schedule. I get frustrated towards people who tell me how to live my life. I am impatient at times and cranky when things are not going according to plans. I am particular with my things and not a “go with the flow” kind of person.
As much as I would like to be different in some of the aspects I don’t like about myself, I am willing to give myself grace about them. I am learning to get rid of my inner critic, to be my own biggest cheerleader. Most of all, I have stopped comparing myself to others. I invite you to take some time to evaluate how much self-acceptance you have in your life. This was a major determining factor to help me live my life to the fullest, I know it can do the same for you.
This is the podcast episode referenced above. https://thelifecoachschool.com/podcast/410/
Brooke has been a significantly impactful teacher of mine the past 5 years. She has allowed my mind to expand even more than I thought possible. I don’t agree with all of her teachings, but I’m grateful for how much more I have evolved since finding her work.
A few years ago, I watched the movie The Greatest Showman and heard the song, “This is me.” I thought this song was the epitome of self-acceptance. Here is the link to this song that includes the beautiful lyrics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rj4Yu9Utdw0