“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” – Lao Tzu
We have been living with family for the summer. I have to say, if you are complacent in your life and feel you need no improvement, I suggest living in someone else’s home for an extended period of time. It is much easier to not live with or spend an extended period of time with other people. Then no one can judge you or call you out on your inconsistencies.
I didn’t realize how much my imperfections glared until I felt there was an audience, or on a lesser scale, co-habitants. In the comforts of my own home, my particularities of food choice, preferences to using certain cleaners, watching certain TV programs, even to the way I load the dishwasher, are all feeling like the biggest things in the world to me.
I find myself trying to avoid stereotypes with which I might be associated. To prove what? I don’t know. That I’m not as nutty as others may believe I am. Maybe. More likely, it is to disprove the critic in my head that has a laundry list of all of my imperfections read to spout at a moment’s notice.
And that is exactly my challenge - I am fighting myself more than anything.
Ironically, the issues to which I am thinking are problematic to others are most likely not on their radar. I am probably most annoying and hypocritical in ways I have not even imagined. The critic in my head is the perspective from which I see myself through the eyes of others. I assume someone thinks something of me only due to the fact that these habits or behaviors frustrate me about myself.
And this is why self-acceptance is so important.
We all come at life from our own perspective, colored by our own experiences. When we say or do something that is outside the experience or knowledge of the people we are with, inevitably there may be a reaction. The clincher is, we don’t have control over that reaction, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I need to be myself, without disclaimers.
I have to acknowledge that I cannot possibly cover all the bases of people in the world. Not everyone will understand why I do what I do. And they don’t need to. Part of growing up is realizing we are accountable for our actions. Each decision we make shapes our circuitous path to the next point in our life. So, while it is important to be sensitive to those around us, not purposely offending people left and right, we can’t take responsibility for the thoughts and feelings of everyone else.
We are always in constant motion, moving us in whatever direction our choices take us.
When we make a decision to act or speak in a certain way, we are paving the way for our next step towards whichever direction of growth we are headed. We define our character with each new decision or course we choose to take in life.
I have been assuming I know the thoughts and feelings of others to an entirety. It is actually quite arrogant to think I have that much influence over someone else. I have been so preoccupied with trying to dispel the assumptions I think others have about me, I have actually been losing my own grounding.
To be comfortable in our own skin, in any situation, is to fully embrace who we are – the good stuff and the not-so-good stuff. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take advantage of opportunities for growth. This doesn’t mean we always like what we do or what we say.
It does mean I can forgive myself.
I can cut myself some slack, knowing my intentions, regardless of the thoughts of others. Equally, when working with others, we can give them the same understanding. We can recognize how fluid our own opinions can be based on our most recent experience, and acknowledge that the behavior of others may change as their experiences change.
While we can spend so much of our time and energy trying to say and do the perfect thing to avoid criticism and be accepted, the first person from whom we need acceptance is simply our own self. Then, we are in a more solid position to give that same acceptance to others.