On Simultaneously Accepting and Improving Ourselves

My spirit animal is that one girl in Mean Girls who stands up when they’re all confessing at the microphone and says, “I just want us all to get along and be friends” and starts weeping. And then someone shouts “you don’t even go here” and Tina Fey looks over and says “you don’t go to this school?” And then the girl says, “No I just have a lot of feelings” and starts crying harder.

That’s probably the easiest, quickest and most accurate way I can explain most of my personality to anyone who hasn't met me. So, I want to talk about how much I hated that idea of myself and how I've grown to love and accept it, and how you can too.

All my life I've felt like the odd one out. Whether it be in my family, my church, my school, you name it. No matter where I was I was perpetually experiencing this terrible feeling of being different. People always told me growing up, “it's a good thing to be different, you're unique and special” but let's be real here: that's kind of some BS. A lot of times it sucks being different and while I know that telling kids they're “unique” and “special” is an attempt to make them feel better, it always just felt to me like people were belittling my suffering. Real life is not an episode of Barney. It's really hard to be different. It's even harder to deal with being different when people tell you that it's a good thing. Being surrounded by others and sticking out like a sore thumb is miserable and painful.

However, the most damaging part of always feeling like you're on the outside of everything is how difficult a lack of acceptance makes it for someone to accept themselves: good, bad and ugly. All throughout my childhood and teenage years I had difficulty making and keeping friends. I was nice to everyone and always had people who would talk to me, I just rarely had friends who I could hang out with outside of school. It felt like I had a million acquaintances and no friends. People I knew from church were really judgy about a hard time I was going through and even after that time in my life had passed the other teenage girls still held me at arm's length. To this day I don't know exactly why they kept me so close yet just out of reach of their circle, but I've since been able to come to terms with my flaws and strengths and weaknesses and am on the path to accepting myself as I am and putting those girls and those years out of my mind.

If you are experiencing a sense of aloneness or isolation know this: everyone is flawed. There's no point in dwelling on things people never did or even things that they did do that hurt you. The only thing that matters is that you are exactly who you are meant to be and that is no one else's prerogative but your own. Not only that, but it is possible to simultaneously accept yourself as you are and to work on being better. Life is all about growth and development and becoming better than we were, so don't be afraid to experience it. My advice to you is to do a few little thought exercises every morning that has helped me to acknowledge and accept myself and my flaws (which is hard for an anxiety ridden perfectionist).

Begin by looking in the mirror and genuinely naming 3 things that you like about yourself be that physically, mentally or otherwise. Then brainstorm 3 things you'd like to improve about yourself. And finally, write those 6 things on a sticky note or in a notebook somewhere and anytime during the day that you feel alone or down, pull out the paper and read over what you wrote that morning. As you do this every day you'll begin to find yourself more mindfully working on the things about yourself that you want to improve and reminding yourself of some of the things about you that are already pretty great.

I hope that any of you who need some help accepting yourself will try this little exercise and let me know in the comments how it felt, what you experienced and/or whether or not it worked for you! Thanks for reading!

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