Self-Acceptance is the groundwork for living a happy life, and it’s an active process that involves a willingness to experience thoughts, feelings and emotions without denial or evasion.
When I was 11 years old, I joined a swim team. I was the new kid at school, and one of my first friends was a swimmer and invited me to join. I had no idea what I was getting into. I had only had basic swim lessons up to that point in my life, whereas my new friend had been competing on the swim team for years.
Within the first few minutes of the first drill, I thought I was going to die. I literally just laid on my back in the middle of one of the swim lanes and struggled to catch my breath. Fortunately, I didn’t panic. I don’t know how, but I managed to remain calm and relaxed. The swim coach was a huge muscular man, rather intimidating in stature. He called me to the side of the pool. Bracing myself for his anger, I was relieved when he gently pointed out that I may want to think about starting with something at a more beginner level. He didn’t embarrass me in front of the team or tell me I would never be a swimmer. Instead, he helped me think through an option that made a better fit for me.
It’s okay to say when we are in over our heads. It is okay to ask for help. There is no shame in saying I am struggling or making a decision to try something different. In fact, growth requires these things. Part of the process is finding our own pace. It is also important not to panic. If I had panicked in the pool, I probably would have started to drown. I somehow instinctively took care of myself in that moment. I was able to admit to myself and others that I could not keep up with everyone else.
Sometimes I feel like this in my recovery and spiritual growth process. I compare myself to others who seem to be more successful than me. I struggle to keep up and feel bad when I can’t. I have to stop and catch my breath. I have to remember that I am right where I am supposed to be for today. I can take care of myself in the moment. It may not be where I want to stay, but for today, it is where I am.
Self-acceptance means accepting yourself fully for the person you are, including the things you like about yourself as well as the things you don't. It is an active process that involves a willingness to experience thoughts, feelings and emotions without denial or evasion. Self-acceptance plays an important role in how we communicate and build relationships with others. This article was written by Shelley Coleman, provisionally licensed counselor, who works at Cabell Huntington Hospital's Counseling Center. If you'd like to learn more about practicing self-acceptance, please call the Counseling Center at 304.526.2049.