I reread this quote at least three times while going through my assigned reading for a trauma and grief class. It absolutely amazes me. Rogers, first of all, is a brilliant genius in the realm of psychotherapy. His person-centered model of therapy has truly changed the way therapists interact with their clients. Second of all, just let this quote soak in.
Radical acceptance is something I frequently talk about on this blog, simply because the concept has helped me IMMENSELY. Before recovery (and many times during recovery), I have RESISTED myself, my urges, and my behaviors. I would look at myself and see only the things I needed to change, remove, or hide. The idea of accepting myself? No, that was unfathomable. I always thought I was traveling on the fast-moving train towards bettering myself, when, in reality, I was trekking on some unachievable mission to reach the point of utter perfection, because I assumed that place was the same meeting ground as the point of utter happiness. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the greatest version of yourself. There is, however, something deeply distorted when you do not believe you have any baseline of greatness to start with.
Change is hard. Incredibly hard. Even when we think we want it or know we need it more than anything. The initial steps may be easy, but once the novelty wears thin, we often regress right back to our homeostatic states. Why do we seek change? Because we feel stagnant or insecure. Because we know we deserve better. Because we want to improve some area in our life. Rarely does change come naturally or passively. Change is a product of our environment and our actions, our decisions and our influences. We must trust ourselves in order to change ourselves. We must stay by our own sides. If not, we engage in war with ourselves. We will resist, fight, and try and stop the changing, even if it’s good for us, even if it’s what we think we want or need. We have to be tolerant of the mismatched emotions and accept distress…at least temporarily. We have to become comfortable with living beyond the comfort zone. Comfort with discomfort. Because all change, lasting change, requires a period of discomfort.
In April, I wrote a letter to myself where I forgave myself for every single thing I had ever done (http://loveletterstobee.com/2013/04/02/forgiving-myself-for-every-single-thing-i-have-ever-done/). I did not post the actual letter here. It is folded and next to my bed. I occasionally read it when I need a pick-me-up, when I need to hear my own self tell me how far I’ve come and how wonderful of a person I am. I just find it amazing that I could claim I had no regrets, and yet, I held so many grudges against myself. That letter was eight pages long. I forgave myself for my insecurities, for relationships, for my eating disorder, for my fears and vulnerabilities, for everything I had ever been ashamed or embarrassed about. It was highly therapeutic, and I recommend it for anyone.
I still have to consciously decide to accept myself. All of myself. Because I’m not just parts of a personality. I’m not just the “good things” or the traits that shine on paper or ingredients to a recipe. I’m a whole person: a flawed perfectly imperfect human. I am easily distracted, klutzy, occasionally shy, and unbelievably sarcastic. I don’t own the nicest clothes, my car is always a littered mess of papers, books, and trash, and I cannot draw a straight line or circle to save my life. I still count on my fingers for basic math and recite the alphabet in my head when I need to place things in order. I will never win a beauty pageant nor be mistaken for a model. But I love the life I have been given, and I accept all the adversities and pain that have come and will come with it.
I accept that I am in recovery for an eating disorder. I accept that I don’t always like recovery and don’t always want to work recovery. I accept that I have carried years of shame and self-loathing. I accept that I have eaten entire pizzas and boxes of pop-tarts and bags of cookies and cartons of ice cream and cried over them. I accept that I have stolen food, eaten secretly in dark cars and bathrooms, and lied about eating. I accept that I have exercised to the point of nausea and muscle deterioration. I accept that I have worked out at two in the morning in the middle of the dark…just because I “needed to.” I accept that I have canceled plans because my eating disorder was too strong at that moment. I accept that I have chain-chewed packs of gum to avoid eating and binge-drank coffee or tea to excessively urinate (and therefore, weigh less). I accept that I have chosen intoxication of alcohol over intoxication of food. I accept that I have zoned out during entire conversations because I was too preoccupied with thinking about eating. I accept that, in high school, I was secretly excited the first time I lost my period, because I thought it meant I was finally on the track to anorexia. I accept that I hated what I looked like, what I weighed, and what I thought of myself for years.
I accept that I still have these urges, even though I do not like them. I even accept that I still occasionally use these behaviors, even though I do not like them.
Acceptance is not synonymous with enjoyment. Acceptance is synonymous with forgiveness, with saying, it’s okay, with saying, I’m human, and I am enough UNCONDITIONALLY. Imagine how much easier change can be when you are supporting, rather than completely fighting, yourself.