[Image: Allison takes a selfie in the mirror. They are in their bathroom. Allison is wearing a white shirt that says New York.]
Since moving to a completely new state in August, my life has in many ways become a journey towards self-acceptance. After actively despising myself for most of undergrad, I wanted to stop that self-loathing, if for no other reasons than I was tired and came to the realization that I couldn’t be anyone else, so might as well start loving up on who I already am. This move felt like the best place to start loving myself, since I knew I’d have quite a bit of time alone. On this journey of acceptance, I’ve had to embrace not only the beautiful, strong parts of myself, but the vulnerable, soft parts as well.
I learned something valuable very early into being on my own. I didn’t actually know a whole lot about myself, especially in isolation. I could probably describe my leadership style and name a couple of hobbies, but how I reacted to struggle, where I felt most warm – questions like that I had no answers for. Upon being asked, “tell me about yourself” fairly often at work, I would begin on February 21, 1995 in Upstate New York. Rattling off a list of dates and events felt easier than saying, “I’m sensitive. I’m pensive. I’m considerate,” if I’d even think to say those things. And more than one time, whoever was listening would let me ramble and then ask, “but who are you?” And I’d have nothing to say.
So for several weeks, my 9-5 was getting acclimated to my field and having deep personal reflection to do (blame it on working in the non-profit, social justice world), and then I would come home and feel very…empty. Emotionally empty from loneliness but also personally empty, as if there wasn’t much to me besides these random accolades. Then I realized – I’m only thinking of myself in terms of my successes; in terms of these hard, definite moments in my life, and not the more fluid aspects of myself. What is my favorite color? What can’t I tolerate in other people? Why am I doing literally any of the things I’m doing? What do I dream of?
At first, that digging was kind of adventurous. I read old journals, and saw what situations if presented to me at 22, I’d react the same as I did at 19. I got to pat myself on the back more than a few times. But then, more of myself was revealed. Why were there negative similarities between all of my relationships? Why did I have the same insecurities after they’d been proven wrong time and time again? That self-acceptance didn’t feel good in the way I wanted it to, because I had to first understand myself as a perpetually, inevitably flawed individual.
As I’ve already written about here, this process hasn’t felt good by any means. Cutting people off, speaking up for myself when I’d rather not, recognizing that I can’t change certain parts of myself even if I wanted to – all of these instances in the last several weeks, months, have taught me that I need to succumb to my flaws. And I don’t mean recognizing that I have a hard time trusting people and therefore not letting anyone in. No – I mean, recognizing I have a hard time trusting people and letting them know that, and working together on how to make sure we can accommodate that.
In succumbing to my flaws, I’m recognizing to love all the parts of myself, even the parts that are jagged, so that when they pop up, I know what to call them. It’s saved me a lot of anger, frustration and anxiety with myself. Instead of denying those flaws, I work with them. Not even around them, but really with them so that I can feel fully myself in every situation, and not only allow my best sides to show. While journaling recently, I wrote that I no longer feel like a medium that life passes through. Instead, I feel like a structure with definite borders, capable of setting its own course. Knowing myself has meant knowing my flaws, and understanding that they’re here to stay. That doesn’t mean hating them. It means accepting them and moving forward.
This post was written as part of The Daily Post’s “Succumb” prompt.