"Go ahead," said the dark voice. "Accept yourself, accept yourself, accept yourself. You'll see, it's who you were meant to be."
I remember being in school and really not fitting in. I don't know whether it was the tuna sandwiches thrown at my head by angry girlfriends, or the fact I found most lunch break subject matter obnoxious amongst my peers. Somehow I always felt like I was just a wrong piece to their puzzle and I spent a long time pointlessly trying to chisel my piece's corners to fit theirs. It didn't work.
I look at my year and a half year old son and wonder how I'm going to talk about fitting in and sticking out. Unlike other parents, I dread that talk more than I do the sex talk. How do you tell someone that sticking out is what you're meant to do after being unsuccessful at fitting it? That trying to fit in is nothing more than a stepping stone on your path to self discovery; that it's a mandatory part of the journey. How do I say:
"Take my word for this, accept yourself. You won't now, but you will soon.. and when you do, it'll be complete, honest, and irrevocable. And everything will finally seem right in the world."
Accept Yourself: The Good, The Bad and The Silly
There are a lot of great things I've had to learn to accept about myself; one being that I'm attractive. Another being that I'm smart and a quick learner. I know it doesn't seem like those things should require acceptance, but they did. Being attractive has had a huge effect on my life, both positive and negative and I've had to learn when to acknowledge it, when to put it to use, and most importantly, when to pretend it didn't exist.
My intelligence, another seemingly innocent trait, drew a huge wedge between me and some of my friends. For a long time, when it mattered, I dumbed down to fit in. I didn't want to ever come off as a know-it-all, especially because most of my friends weren't the type to admit their flaws and ask for tutoring. So when they bitched about not 'getting' something, I did, too. Ew, math? Chem?
The truth is, I not only enjoyed math and science (and learning altogether) but I was also really, really good at it.
Accepting the fact I was good at two things, looking good and being smart, without putting as much effort in as everyone else , was hard. I didn't want to walk the line between confidence and arrogance and fall onto the wrong side.
"Sometimes you'll be really good at something you didn't work too hard to earn. Don't be ashamed. Trust me, there will be plenty you'll probably really want but never get. There is always a balance and to keep it alive, you need to celebrate your victories without shame."
The truth is, the real hard part of acceptance is coming to terms with your character flaws. I've dipped onto the wrong side, the arrogant know-it-all-side, one too many times in my hopes to guide and advise others. I also caught myself becoming a judgmental, Moral Molly in situations I had no right to judge.
During my moment of darkness these past couple of months (Read: What a Woman Needs) I had to come to terms with the fact I was someone susceptible to depression, self pity and emotional imbalance. What headstrong Capricorn wants to admit that to themselves? I was suddenly someone who could let their work go, relationships crumble, and who would deprive her young son of a social, sunlit life. How dare I? How COULD I?
"Accepting your character flaws isn't about justification. It's about acknowledging those flaws exist and working to fix them."
Then there are quirky things about myself I have had to learn to accept, for the sake of my own sanity and to stay happy - many of which I reluctantly admitted in my interview this week. I like 90s tv shows, teen dramas, and sometimes when Nickelback and Creed come onto my Pandora station, I let them play. Sometimes, I even sing along.
Once, I was a funeral and I got the giggles. I don't ever, ever, ever know what 'the polite thing to do' is. I usually talk too loudly in restaurants, especially when it's about a tv show or a book, and I almost always curse at the wrong time in front of the wrong people.
I also get sad and get mean, have a problem with sweets and self control, and absolutely, without a doubt, have a need to feel noticed and admired.
What does this all mean?
I have a friend who was once a bit overweight but wasn't at all ashamed of her curves - she celebrated her plus size to anyone who'd listen. When she decided to get healthy (she was, in her words, chubs cause she ate like a tub), she got a lot of shit for her decision. "Why did you lose weight?! I thought you loved your body! Why would you try and change it to look like the skinny bitches on a magazine cover?"
Acceptance comes in many forms. It means being open to all that you are - good, bad, silly, disgusting- and being honest with what you can and are willing to change. Understand that you, or anyone else for that matter, aren't perfect and accepting those imperfections doesn't justify them, it just means that you know they're there and if you choose to and are able to, you can change them. My friend accepted her curves without shame, but when she decided she didn't want diabetes and actually wanted to make it to 50, it was a decision she made to improve herself and fix the flaws she had accepted as her own. It was that acceptance that brought on the respect and determination toward a healthier life.
Accept yourself because in the long run, you're all you've got. Accept the good, even when the world says you have no right to celebrate something you didn't work for. Accept the bad, not as something that will forever be a part of you, but rather as something that currently is, and as something you still have the power to change if you want to. Accept the silly, because guess what?
"There's only one you. You're going to be stuck with yourself for a long, long time. Do it right."
For Chiara's top 5 reasons to be your own best friend read our special print edition.