From birth there’s much noise around who we are, who we’re supposed to be and how to go about it. It’s no wonder we struggle when we find ourselves othering from those concepts. Self-love and self-acceptance can be hard to do when you’re bombarded with so many messages that say your essence and peculiarities are wrong. It’s a process, to unravel who we are and then to be brave enough to love ourselves, as is. The “as is” is important. Loving ourselves, today, is important. That’s not to say don’t have aspirations and goals, but rather don’t keep waiting to exhale. Appreciate all that you are, right now.
Why is that self-love, self-acceptance process so hard? We come up against ourselves, as much as we come up against others. We come to develop our own concept of who we are, should be and what’s wrong with us. We additionally have external messages telling us these same things. Messages are overt, obscured, as well as derived from our own meaning making.
When our son was 2, he thought all men were dads and all women were moms. He asked questions like “what’s that daddy doing” versus “what’s that person doing”. He also developed his own qualifiers for who was a “daddy” and who was a “mommy”. I’ll never forget the day my brown skin turned red, when he said “bye grandma” to a stranger leaving the elevator. We take in information and try to make sense of the world around us, the best we can. Sometimes the information is misleading, yet we take it to heart. Our skin colour, age, weight, hairstyle, and various other attributes don’t dictate our value. Just as grey hair doesn’t necessarily mean grandma, and family doesn’t necessarily mean, mom, dad, and kids.
Our meaning making is greatly influenced by external messages. Non-explicit messages are constantly fed to us by norms (societal, cultural, religious, etc.), systematic structures and media. Even these, can be quite blatant. Racism, homophobia, sexism, ageism, are all unfortunately alive and well. While these seemingly subliminal messages can be hard to tweeze out. What can be further damaging are messages we are told by those we love, those we trust, persons of authority in our lives. When they convey to us who we are, should be and what’s wrong with us, we tend to believe.
I don’t have words for the pain, the suffering, the array of mental health issues that can stem from conflict between ones true self and values, versus what we’re told it should be. I encourage gentleness and forgiveness in that process to self-love, self-acceptance. A start can be to recognize, who you are matters more than any message of who you should be. Whoever you are. There is one you. No one else can offer to the world what you can, the way you can. All those peculiarities about yourself, are what should be celebrated. It’s part of the wonder, the joy, that’s you and the gifts you can offer others. The last bit I have to say is this: their issues with you, don’t have to be your issues with yourself.
Wishing you healing and love.