I was perusing Reddit the other day and happened upon a story that I felt I needed to share. It was disarmingly real — a story of true darkness and despair, followed by a personal epiphany, a rebirth of hope, an experience of profound self-acceptance.
I found the story to be moving and illuminating. It penetrated my detached-Internet-surfer mode of being and compelled me to empathize deeply with the life of a total stranger. I don’t know who /u/TheQuietudeAbides is, but I sincerely hope that the strength of their realization persists in time and proves to be permanently transformative.
I’ll stop talking now and let you read the story.
Self-Acceptance: A Moving Story
“Over the course of multiple bouts of therapy for depression and anxiety, I’ve repeatedly come across the same messages as a treatment: “Love yourself,” “Be kind to yourself,” “Be your own best friend,” etc. None of it worked for me. It all felt like platitudes made up by extroverts who didn’t understand real, deep self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness.
For the past few weeks, I had been pretty hard on myself. Every day I would drive home from working at a job with a bad schedule that puts a lot of strain on my relationship with my spouse, which I’ve been unable to get out of because of depression and anxiety killing my motivation and convincing me I’ll always fail at everything. Every night I would drive home and think, “Fuck me. God help me.”
At some point, 2 days ago I think, I simply decided I had had enough. I had been feeling for a long time that I had some kind of a mental block that made it impossible to love myself, but it came to me that loving yourself might be like the difference between thinking, “I’m going to get off the couch now,” and actually moving my body to get off the couch. It’s two totally different messages.
So instead of repeating to myself in my mind, “I love myself, I am worthy, etc.” I instead moved my actual love muscles and treated myself like someone I loved. It was as if I hundred things I knew intellectually from therapy (I need to stop seeking validation outside myself, I need to stop feeling God has abandoned me, I need to treat myself like someone worthwhile) had come together into a [moment] whose weight I could no longer resist, and under which I simply had to succumb.
I stood in the shower and let the hot water beat against my chest, my heart, with my palms open, and made a commitment not unlike wedding vows. The things I’ll recount don’t logically make sense if I am one person, but if I think of myself as two people, it works well enough. Here are some things I remember saying:
“It’s OK. You can hat[e] yourself, you can even kill yourself, and no matter what happens, I will not abandon you. I will love you, unconditionally, no matter what. No matter how many mistakes you make, I will forgive you. You can be depressed all day, you can get nothing done, and you can fail at everything, and I will still be there for you. I will give you all of the things you so badly wish for. I will do all of the work you are afraid to do. I will step in and I will help you. I will love you no matter what. Even if you hate yourself, I will love you.”
I kept this monologue going even after I had finished my shower, and thought many of these things while standing naked in front of the mirror. The self that I had always been could not love or accept itself, so I had to create another me to do its loving for it. As I did so, I had the distinct fear that if I stopped talking this way, I would slip back into the old self, so I continued it for as long as I possibly could, until I had said all of things I had wanted to believe God felt for me, but which I couldn’t actually bring myself to believe. I stepped in and become the all-loving God I felt had abandoned me, and committed to doing for myself everything I had been looking for some outside fate to give me.
I still get anxious. I still have moments of feeling like a failure. But in those moments, I am there for myself. I remind myself, yes you failed. But it’s OK. I still love you. And somehow, this motivates me to do better. I’ve spent too many years letting myself down. Too many years disappointing myself. It’s time now to help myself do better. And even if I lose everything, even I everyone else hates me, I will still be there for myself.
TL;DR: Accepting yourself as you are is not the same as just saying the words. You have to take action.”
For more on this topic . . .
We highly recommend Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. After years of researching vulnerability, Brown “explores how embracing one’s vulnerability and imperfection is necessary for achieving real engagement and social connection. Through explaining our deep-seated reasons for shame, and showing how to embrace our vulnerability, the author aims to provide guidance for a better private and professional life, and to initiate a fundamental transformation in our shame-based society which, according to the author, needs to adapt a new culture of vulnerability.”