Since I was eighteen years old until now, my life has been peppered by visits to assorted therapist, social workers and shrinks in an attempt to “feel better” about myself. I have talked about my life, my childhood, my fears and concerns, with so many professionals that I couldn’t recall all their names if asked. I have sat countless hours in waiting rooms and private offices, sharing my memories, dreams, and accounts of how I act/react to life’s situations. To think back on it all makes me feel so tired. And I know I am not alone. There are millions of other people similar to me, people who are searching for ways to accept themselves, make sense of a chaotic world or life that has not brought them all they had hoped for. I know I am not alone in this never-ending quest to love myself wholly just as I am.
Why is that concept so difficult? Why are there millions of people seeking out medication, self-help books, and professional counseling? Of course, sometimes these steps are essential and necessary. Life throws unexpected curveballs and we might need some extra support and guidance to get through a trying time. And there are the very real kinds of illnesses, like depression or OCD, which can be linked to hereditary, chemical imbalances or extreme situations. For these, medical help can provide welcome relief.
I acknowledge that therapists and doctors can and do help and at times are needed; what I am trying to express is how to come to terms with the innate, deeply-rooted feeling of being “not good enough” which for me does not stem from any one situation or an imbalance of serotonin.
For me, and probably millions like me, this feeling of inadequacy, of “not measuring up” has been with me for as long as I can remember. I think this feeling, what some might label as “low self-esteem,” is at the core of my disquiet and has fed the long search for a therapist who could somehow fix me, somehow build or restore that self-love I should have been born with or developed as a child. I know this is impossible and that self-love, which in turn breeds self-acceptance, must come from within and must emanate from my deepest place of being. Here is where I must focus in an effort to find real peace. It is in this space of quiet, of meditation, of honesty that a person can begin to identify her deepest fears.
Inside all of us is a voice of truth and also a voice of doubt or condemnation. It takes great fortitude and effort to let the voice of truth and of love be louder. To embrace each day fully, to feel each moment in joy or sadness, laughter or tears, takes real commitment and courage. To be in the moment—not distracted by old memories and stories, not dreaming of future scenarios—takes real effort but through this effort, we can unfold and blossom.
To accept myself wholly as I am, to embrace my body with all its “imperfections” and my mind, which can wander and forget, and my spirit, which continues to strive for enlightenment and peace … this is the real stuff. I can do this work with myself, every minute of every day.
Radical Acceptance is a term coined by psychoanalyst and spiritualist Tara Brach and its premise is one of simplicity: treat yourself with compassion and engage in practices that lead toward clear-sightedness. Be loving to yourself and accept yourself for exactly who you are now; each of us is born with the joy of the Buddha’s light within; we are innately good and we need to find ways to access that love and goodness, not diminish it. If I can believe that I am an extension of all things perfect and in some way divine, then how can I criticize my mind for what it thinks or my heart for what it feels?