Self-acceptance can be a lifelong journey. Do you ever find yourself working to hide aspects of yourself that you feel “aren’t you?” Do you think of yourself as a certain type of person who does, says and thinks certain types of things? If so, I’d love to rattle your cage for a bit!
What type of person are you?
People will often say things like, “I’m the type of person that takes the high road” or “I’m the type of person that says it like it is.” On the flip side, we often peg others as a type of person. “He’s the type of person who always has to have the last word” or “She’s the type of person who puts family first.”
I find these all to be loaded and rather categorical statements that leave me scratching my head. Is ANYONE a “type” of person?
Does the high-road person ALWAYS take the high road? Seems a bit far-fetched. Does the say-it-like-it-is person always do that? Even when it might cost them their job or their marriage? I know folks who tend to like to have the last word, but not always. And what does putting your family first mean? If she has to go to work to earn a living, I surely hope that falls in the category of putting family first. If she has a marital affair but is always there for her kids, is that putting family first? I just don’t know. Depends who we ask, I imagine.
I know, I know. As always, I have a lot of questions.
Yet maybe you can see where the “type” thing gets a bit tricky. If your best friend unloads on you about his miserable life right after you’ve concurrently met your future wife and won the lottery, is he the type of person that is insensitive or that values the safe space of a deep friendship?
Self-acceptance is challenging when we only allow ourselves (and others) a narrow tightrope to walk. Type-of-person begs questions about consistency, intent and perspective. In the end, I believe that type-of-person doesn’t exist. Not only for the not-so-hidden meanings in my questions above, but also in the context of what it means to be a human.
Our messy personhood
In my book Wild World, Joyful Heart, I talk about the idea of our messy personhood. There is nothing messy about our spiritual beingness, but there is plenty of messiness in our mental, emotional and physical beingness. Self-acceptance means embracing ALL of that.
Humans are an amazing species. We embody many beautiful attributes and gifts…and we’re also sometimes a hot mess. All at the same time. The messy part happens largely in our minds and in how we care (or don’t care) for ourselves and others. The messy part is a physical, emotional and/or mental dissonance that can dim the most beautiful and powerful part of ourselves.
Yet. In the current evolution of humanity, this is what it means to be human. So you can likely see how wildly inaccurate it is to call ourselves or anyone else a type-of-person. We’re more complex than that.
And, when we start to think of ourselves as a type-of-person, we often hide thoughts and parts that we don’t want others to see because they’re not consistent with how we think others view us. Like we need to stay in character. This can be a slippery slope. A slippery slope away from the complex truth of ourselves.
Embrace your beautiful texture
I saw a funny blurb on social media recently:
Me: Be kind, you never know what someone is going through.
Also me: Nice turn-signal, f**k-face.
That cheeky post brilliantly outlines our messy personhood. We are deeply textured human beings with thoughts and behaviors that are wildly inconsistent.
What if, instead of working to create a caricature out of ourselves—staying in line with the type-of-person we want to present to others (and ourselves)—we simply embraced our beautiful textured existence? Self-acceptance becomes a natural development. Maybe we start by considering some questions:
- What if we didn’t stay “in character” and instead allowed our TEXTURED HUMAN flag to fly?
- What if we also allowed the space for others to be inconsistent?
- What if our kid could get a bad grade or drop out of college and still be a committed student? A student of life and of the human experience?
- Maybe our best friend supports a political figure that we don’t like. Does that paint our friend in one color? Or might we instead love that friend in their fullness including the texture of their choices and beliefs?
- What if we spent less time categorizing ourselves and others and more time expressing the fullness of our humanity? And appreciating—CELEBRATING—that expression?
As with most mindset shifts, this isn’t always easy to embrace. It’s convenient to pigeon-hole ourselves and others. It’s less work and doesn’t require us to cultivate an open mind or an open heart.
A factory worker might put a bolt in the same hole on a conveyer belt of identical machines all the livelong day. Doing the same thing without question streamlines things, removes ambiguity and creates a sense of constancy. But life is not a factory and people are not bolts.
In the human being and in life on earth, ambiguity IS the constant. Might we allow ourselves to be okay with that?
To your empowered well-being,