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January 22, 2016

When we’re Told we’re not Okay: Finding Self-Acceptance through Self-Hatred.

 Introvert

I’ve spent years fighting myself by living the way others’ wanted me to live.

Why?

Because I wasn’t told I was okay as I was, and I guess I needed to be told that, in order to be comfortable in my own skin.

I’m not alone in my discomfort. Most of the world can’t accept all of themselves. This is why we seek spirituality, self-help books, material things, fame and acclaim—or maybe just outward validation like a compliment, “You look nice today”, to boost our inner confidence— in essence, to validate who we are.

In the age of the selfie, we seek self-gratification, one post at a time.

For the majority, the “am I enough” conundrum is not an outward one. What we are constantly facing is a general anxiety about being alone with our thoughts, our feelings, our breath. The extroverted culture that we are, generally gets tense and uncomfortable in that inner vortex that is called “self” for too long.

Born as an introvert and empath, to a very extroverted mother, I was not accepted from day one. My mother’s story of our first meeting about sums up my relationship with myself up until my mid 30s: “When you came out of me, Sarah”, my mom said,  “you did not cry, you just looked around the hospital room like with a curiousness, probably thinking, ‘Here I am again!’, and I felt there was something wrong with you from this moment. You did not cry like normal babies do.”

That “wrongness” was my introverted, deep thinking nature being misunderstood by my extroverted and image conscious mother— a mother whom I believe on a soul-level I chose to learn how to love myself more deeply; despite judgements and criticisms of others.

Fast forward to 18 months later and the birth of an extroverted sister—the apple of my mother’s eye. For all the ways I failed her expectations of what a daughter should be, my sister met and exceeded them with gusto.

As a culture we compare, we judge. No matter how much meditation or yoga or spiritual detachment you practice, your human mind likes to label. Labels can hurt and maim and mar as much as they can nurture and love and soften. So, what if there is a path beyond labels—a way of breathing and thinking, just being—that gives us a chance to experience who we are rather than try to be someone we think we are?

So now, let’s skip through the formative years of my childhood, where I was compared both openly and quietly (but remember, as an empath, I can feel others’ thoughts and feelings, so no words can sometimes feel more harsh than words of comparison or slander) to this adorable, social, chipper and performer sister of mine. I was the moon to my sister’s sun—I was the Yin to her Yang. I was quiet, pensive, highly sensitive and easily overwhelmed in a room full of others; I wanted quiet where she wanted noise. I wanted to play alone or with one close friend for hours, where she wanted to run and giggle with a bunch of other wild and playful children.

This was my childhood. In my teen years, I found my own outlets for personal space where I could not be compared to my sister. I stepped out of acting, which I merely took to in order to please my stage-mother of a mom and find a way to bond more deeply with my sister (whom I did love and cherish very much). I began to write, which was my personal outlet for an array of disgruntled feelings that began to build up, perhaps at the mere age of 18 months, as a rather grumpy and solemn way of looking at life. Needless to say, my favorite book as a small child was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I wished Alexander was a real boy so that we could have play-dates and grumble together about the ways we were misunderstood, creating our own versions of what it is to be happy and play and enjoy the simplicity of just being ourselves.

I think there are many “Alexander’s” out there, grumbling as they roll out of bed to go to their 9-5 jobs that are not their true passions. We have been taught early on that pushing against our inner yearnings is the way of life. Oh, if we only knew what a big, fat, juicy lie that was! Many believe and live that lie on a daily basis, just to please others.

I admit, up until recently, there was still a part of me that wanted to please. I grew up wanting the acceptance of others, in particular, the extroverts of the family—my mother and sister. This yearning for acceptance felt like a pressure. I constantly felt the need to have more friends. Being popular was something that was very important to my mother in her youth and a pressure she put upon her children. My sister was popular; I wasn’t. I could not have cared less about being popular. I always had one very close friend that I felt the most comfortable with; someone to share my secrets with and include in my creative endeavors. This was enough for me, but not for my mother—or sister.

Enough. What is it to be enough? As a culture that is very outward focused, obsessed with reality shows that showcase highly extroverted and exhibitionist personalities, we are missing the inner goldmine— the personal jewel that we all contain within— that sense of being enough.

Enough with our own breath. Enough with the thoughts and feelings coursing through our minds and bodies on a daily basis. And as we feel enough, we begin to listen and honor ourselves. We begin to feel happy!

Up until recently this childhood pressure affected me. In moments of enjoying solitude, I would feel the uncomfortable need to be social, like a conditioned lie coursing through my blood. As I’ve peeled away at layers of my beliefs, getting to the nitty gritty of who I am as a unique human being, (without any twerks and tweaks to impress others, I see that) I don’t believe that more friends makes me more valuable or happier.

Happiness is honoring you!

I’ve released that belief of my youth; the projection of my mother’s’ insecurity that I took on as my own for a very, very long time. I’ve accepted my introverted, empathic and highly sensitive nature as a blessing and a gift— as who I am!

I am enough.

I’ve accepted that being alone for hours (and sometimes days) feeds my spirit and opens me to the reservoir of gifts I am here to share. This personal time is my fine wine that really taps me into the depth of this thing we call life!

And writing, well, this is me making friends with you, the reader. We are having an intimate chat over a warm cup of tea in cyber-land and I am bearing my innermost heart and soul to you. Why? Because perhaps my story resonates. Perhaps you will not feel all alone in your quest to accept all the intricacies that make you; intricacies that are outside of the picture others paint of you in their minds.

After all, there is no me. There is no you. There is just us. And as we stop fighting and start accepting, we stop rejecting.

When we can accept our bodies as they are in this moment, we feel more love for others’ bodies as they are. When we can accept what we feel in this moment as real and valid: we won’t reject the feelings of others or project our own feelings onto them. When we accept our thoughts without judgement—we can do the same for those around us.

There is no me, there is no you—just an us.

As a little bonus, here are some ways to self-acceptance:

What do you believe?
Figure out where you are fighting yourself; this involves some digging. Looking at your childhood and any turbulent relationships and beliefs others may have had that you took as your own. What and how did others project onto you? And did you believe those projections to be you?

Mindfulness.
Sit and breathe and connect with your body and heart for 5 minutes. What are you feeling physically, mentally, emotionally? Experience it all as a detached observer. Don’t judge, just allow. Accept what you experience—it’s you in that moment. This is a key step to letting others’ projections of you go.

Become your own bestie.
We all want a best friend. What if we were it? Our only true lifetime relationship is with our own body, mind and heart. Make it a loving one. Start by accepting who you are in this world.

~

Relephant:

5 Ways to Not be Offended by Your Introvert Friends.

~

Author: Sarah Lamb

Editor: Sarah Kolkka

Image: HartwigHD/Flickr

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Sarah Lamb  |  Contribution: 9,050