How Accepting Others Changes The Way You See Yourself
A wise person once told me that humans are like snowflakes; none of us will ever be exactly the same.
And they were kind of right.
We’re all different. You don’t need to go into the big talk like gender, race, sexuality or anything like that. The way that we all react to even the small things in life, like the smell of coffee in the morning, will be different from one another.
That’s what makes life so interesting isn’t it? That we’re all unique in different ways.
Some of us spend a lot of time trying to learn how to accept the things that make us unique. Probably most of us, actually.
That’s because often what makes us unique is also what makes us standout. And we too often don’t like standing out. It makes us feel different from ‘everyone else’. It can make us feel ostracized, and like the ‘other’.
But then we think we’ve done it! We think we’ve found a way to accept who we are. To love who we are. To be proud of who we are. As we should!
And when we think we have, we want everyone else to be proud of us too.
After all it wasn’t easy, was it? Getting to that place of self-loving. It’s not easy to maintain. It takes effort. Hard work. Perseverance. And we want to only be surrounded by people who can get on board with who we are. Who can accept us, unequivocally.
But what if we become so hell-bent on other people accepting us that we stop doing the same in return? What happens then?
Indulge me in telling you a little story.
My family found out that I was gay when I was 16.
It was fairly dramatic at the time. They had never really had much interaction with gay people in the past, and I was far too young to have any sort of self-awareness or assurance about what it would mean for my future.
It became a thing that we didn’t really talk about.
Something that I thought they were ashamed of, and so something that I became ashamed of. Yet, something I knew I couldn’t change.
Over a decade passed of me having a relatively unhealthy relationship with my sexuality. That’s a story for another time.
But one day I found myself sitting in front of a therapist, telling him that whole story. Filling in the gaps of the last decade, and trying to understand what had happened.
With one sentence, he floored me.
“It sounds a lot like you want your Dad to accept you for who you are, which is absolutely fair enough. But can you honestly say that you are doing the same thing for him?”
I was speechless, completely stunned by a realisation that I had been so caught up in getting people to accept me for who I was, that I hadn’t been doing the most basic thing: accepting others for who they are.
It’s easy to think that you’re open-minded and accepting simply because you go against the norm.
Talking openly about mental illness made me feel accepting. Having other friends who identify as LGBTQ+ made me feel accepting, too, as did having friends from different places all around the world.
But the reality is, sometimes we want people to walk a mile in our shoes, so that they can understand and accept us for what we’ve been through.
But we can get so hell-bent on seeking the acceptance of others, that not only do we not accept them for who they are, but we never actually learn to accept us for ourselves.
When I realised I hadn’t been accepting other people, truly, for what they believe in, I felt selfish. And in all honesty, it is a bit selfish to expect everyone to love you for who you are.
In the case of my Dad, well he does love me the best way he knows how. But because humans are snowflakes, and we are all different, he doesn’t necessarily have to love people the same way that I do. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t accept me. It just means he does it a bit differently to how I would.
And I felt proud of myself for realising that. Relieved, even. Freed of the need to find acceptance from others, and empowered that I could get it from myself.
But the most important part of starting to accept other people is questioning why you wanted them to accept you, so much so that you never did the same for them.
What is stopping you from seeing things from other people’s view? Why do you need this person’s acceptance so badly? What happens if you are the one that accepts yourself, and that’s ok?
As soon as you start asking these questions, that’s when you’re on the right track.