Thursday, January 4, 2018

5 Ways to Love Yourself (Part 4) ~ Accept Yourself

This is #4 in the series "5 Ways to Love Yourself." Check back tomorrow for Part 5.

Accept who you are.
This seal loves itself… do you?

Accept your whole self: your looks, personality, strengths, flaws, past, present, and future. You are valuable and lovable, even if you don’t think so.

Observe the Alyssa in her natural environment--
how she makes a poop-face while listening to music.
Such a beautiful creature.
Your Natural Self
We are our own worst critics. It’s difficult to love ourselves and accept love from others when we can’t even accept ourselves. As someone on the autism spectrum who struggles with mental illness, I understand this difficulty all too well.

It's tempting to reject your natural makeup, especially if it doesn't fit your cultural ideal or norm. There are times when I see the way I am as "wrong" and I'm convinced I can't be fixed. Other times, I ignore my natural self and try to be something I'm not. I set aside my gifts and limitations for ones others might view as more favorable--and yet I quickly realize I cannot keep up the facade for long. 

Pretending to be something you're not is about as useful as a turtle 🐢 trying to be a giraffe. Even if the giraffes are gullible enough to fall for the turtle's ruse, it'd be quite difficult to deny the turtle's struggle to put on the act. For starters, turtles aren't tall enough to reach the tree branches with the leaves the giraffes are eating. They could probably get up there if they happened to be a particularly nimble turtle who can climb. But doing so would leave them exhausted, drawing some funny looks from the giraffes who wonder why their odd green family member gets so tired after eating lunch. 

                     What the turtle thinks it is                                        What it actually is

Similarly, denying who you are and your natural tendencies is going to be exhausting in the long run. Let's say you have the choice between a job as a cashier or as a backroom worker and they both have equal pay. If people easily exhaust you and your math skills are poor, it'd probably be a bad idea to take the cashier job--even if your coworkers are pressuring you into it because they want to be in close proximity with you.

I can't deny that I'm autistic. So I wear sunglasses inside public buildings to prevent sensory overload, and I work for longer spans of time with longer breaks since that's how I function best. I'm also introverted, so I don't feel bad about spending most of my time in my room. And I recognize that my eye for detail makes me slower at completing tasks, but the end result might be higher quality.

Someday, the turtle 🐢 might look at the grass on the ground and realize he could eat that instead of tree leaves. Why burn himself out climbing a tree just to please his giraffe friends? Even if he's not like a giraffe, or even like other turtles, he knows he is happiest when he is on the ground.


Pursue what suits you best. And not just in a job setting, but in everything (whenever possible). If you're a guy who loves knitting, get off your butt and knit! Of course, it's good to try new things too--just be sure to balance it with things YOU like.

Your Origins
The nature vs. nurture debate makes identity a rather complex thing; either way, I cannot dispute the fact that my genes, upbringing, culture, and experiences influence who I am today. As I've grown into an adult (I'm 26 now), I've felt ashamed of my genes, betrayed by my upbringing, disillusioned by culture, and scarred by my experiences.

Or maybe that's just Paranoid Alyssa talking.

But I've also come to appreciate the way I am, being introverted and sensitive like many of my family members, as these traits come with unique gifts and insight. I also am grateful for the deep love and inner light my sheltered religious upbringing fostered in me. I stand in awe of how in our chaotic culture, humans still connect, share creativity, and find sanctuary in one another. And I recognize that amidst rejection, confusion, breakups, darkness, and mental breakdowns, I've been lucky to find acceptance, clarity, love, hope, and health. And it all made me stronger.
(Honestly, this paragraph was painful to write as I am currently going through a depression--in case you didn't already notice. But I feel a little lighter now that I've written it.)

Wherever you come from, wherever you've been, whatever your past was like: own it. Think about the good that has come from it. It may not be easy (especially if you are depressed like me today), but I guarantee that if you look hard enough, you'll find some remnant of a good memory: a person you loved, a gesture of kindness, a moment you laughed, something you learned, or something you're proud of.

Sometimes, I feel guilty I'm from a middle-class family and have a roof over my head, while others are homeless or struggling to pay rent. I feel guilty for being pretty and skinny, when others are self-conscious about the way they look. I feel guilty for my good health, while others are sick due to lack of finances, lack of resources, or complex physical vulnerabilities. But I know I shouldn't feel guilty. I should be thankful for what I have, and use it to continue feeling well and help others do the same.

The best thing you can do is be kind and listen to others.
Even if you have nothing else to offer, your time and consideration is valuable.

Look at what you have right now. You are blessed in some way or another. What you have, others might envy or have a dire need for it. Truly feel the good in what you have, and share it with others.

Your Thoughts
Another thing that makes you YOU is the thoughts you think. So it makes sense not to deny those either. Even if the giraffes don't think fondly of the ocean, the turtle 🐢 shouldn't feel bad that his mind drifts to the beach. And I shouldn't feel bad that I question everything in existence--I'm a curious person! It might be a bit lonely having thoughts you feel others can't relate to, but they are still a part of YOU.

Also, it’s natural to only want happy thoughts and not the unhappy (or annoying) ones. Like the echoes of cruel words uttered by your childhood bullies. Or that stupid thing you said to a cute boy at school, and what you should have said instead. Or my OCD telling me to Google-search "is mental illness real" or "am I on government blacklist for google searches."

Alas, these thoughts are a part of you, too. But they don't have to hurt so much.

An effective practice I’ve learned in dealing with bad thoughts is Mindfulness; specifically, the ability to accept all thoughts without overthinking them, and then calmly let them pass by.

That being said...

...tune in tomorrow for the final post, on Accepting Your Thoughts! :)

Grab a copy of "Through Our Eyes: Living with Asperger's" (Special Edition 50 min version) for only $10! Discount expires soon (1/15/18)

Like this post? Leave a tip for Alyssa:  

No comments:

Post a Comment