Accepting Ourselves So We Can Accept Others

Accepting myself has been an ongoing process and it began well before I became a parent and got married.  It began more than seventeen years ago when I was flailing about, bulimic, unable to stop using my substance of choice (food) the way a drug addict uses crack.  I have written about this period of my life before ‘here‘, ‘here‘, ‘here‘ and ‘here‘ so I won’t go into great detail again now.  Suffice it to say, I was out of control, scared, suicidal and I couldn’t stop binging and purging.  And then someone who had once been an active alcoholic and obese, with more than a hundred pound maintained weight loss, said to me, “What if you accept that this is where you are?”

I remember I looked at her in shock.  Even now, thinking back to her words I find I am holding my breath.  It was such a stunning statement.  Never had anyone suggested such a thing.  To me it suggested complete defeat.  It was blasphemous.  It was the single most heinous suggestion I’d ever heard.  I think I said something like, “Are you kidding?  What do you mean?”  I can no longer remember her exact words, but she said something like, “You just told me you can’t stop binging and throwing up.  You just said you are out of control.  You just gave me a detailed description of what you do, how completely depressed you are, how you’ve tried for twenty-two years to control yourself and yet here you are, still unable to.  What if you told yourself – okay.  This is where I am.  I am out of control.  I hate it.  I hate feeling this way.  I can’t stop.  I can’t stop hurting myself.  I can’t stop binging.  I can’t stop throwing up.  I can’t stop thinking about food.  I can’t stop abusing myself.  This is where I am.  I accept that I am here.  What if you did that?

I didn’t have an answer.  I couldn’t think.  I felt like I was being given a pop quiz I hadn’t studied for.  I stared at her and then she did the next thing that I could not understand or wrap my mind around.  She opened her arms in embrace and hugged me.  I remember my confusion, the feeling that this couldn’t be right, that she was unhinged, that the only thing that could save me from self-destruction was more self-criticism, more self-loathing and more self-recrimination.  But I also knew what she’d said made some sort of bizarre sense; for twenty-two years I’d been upping the self hate talk to no avail.  All that criticism I kept dumping on myself had gotten me exactly where I was – at a dead end.  So I took a deep breath, held onto her hand and took a metaphoric leap into the unknown.  The unknown of acceptance.

Just in case you’re wondering, it didn’t happen as quickly or as easily as this may sound.  That leap took years of practice, of gently reminding myself that whatever I was feeling, whatever I was doing, I could accept that in that moment I was where I was.  It took years and years of cultivating awareness, of being able to see when I took up the whip that I could also put it down again.  Kindness, compassion, gentle reminders and acceptance, this is the road I have tried to stay on.  As I said, this is very much a work in progress.  Some call it a ‘practice’ because ‘work’ sounds difficult.  My experience with acceptance has been that it is “work”.  It is not easy for me.  It does not come naturally.  I have stumbled along the way.  I continue to wander off at times, only to be brought back, gently, kindly and with compassion by others who are on the same path.  It takes gentle reminders, many nonjudgmental nudges to move back onto the path of acceptance.  But I have seen the light and know to follow it even when it grows dim.

My experience with acceptance regarding autism has followed a similar trajectory.  You might think – why didn’t she ‘get it’ right away?  Why did it take so long for her to remember that what had worked for herself would work with this too?   And the only answer I have is this – I forgot and I couldn’t see that they were connected.  I didn’t see the value in accepting autism because I didn’t see my child as Autistic.  I saw her as having been diagnosed with a word I feared and didn’t understand, and therefore was not going to accept.  Again it felt like defeat to accept.  It has only been a little over a year that I was able to make the connection.  And the thing that helped me make the connection came in the form of yet another person who accepted me and all my fear, guilt and shame with compassion.  Once I was able to make the connection, became aware of my lack of acceptance and allowed that to be, without adding criticism and judgement to it, was I finally able to begin the process of true acceptance.

Acceptance of ourselves and where we are in this moment opens us up to the wonder of all.

Pascal, Emma, Harvey & Henry typing to each other – April, 2013

H &E type


13 responses to “Accepting Ourselves So We Can Accept Others

  1. A great post on acceptance and its relation to addiction and self hatred. As a hardcore addict with many years in recovery I totally relate. I could never get better and start liking myself (loving myself took a lot longer) until I accepted myself exactly as I was, which wasn’t pretty. Ariane, you continue to inspire and guide me to a better place as you have so many others.♥

  2. very nice post.. 🙂 thank you.

  3. Sorry my comment is not directly related to this post, but to all your recent posts. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Yours is the only blog I read daily now. I have felt our family has been out of synch with the rest of the ASD community and your posts are a sanity check. When I sent the ABA therapist off after our first meeting never to return, when I let my son choose not to enter into stressful extra-curricular activities because he would prefer to chill at home not ‘practising social skills’, and when I let him partake of the evils of his favourite food, milk, I felt the disapproval of a whole mainstream ASD community. Naturally we all choose our own path in life and what is right for us, but I have always felt like the neglectful Mum in the eyes of others. I have to say it is really nice to come on your blog and just feel virtually supported! May I also add the irony of the situation is that our son has blossomed and grown.

    • This comment fills me with joy. Thank you for leaving it here. Really. It means so much to me.
      And that irony you speak of? It was the single most surprising benefit of acceptance and presuming competence that I never would have guessed or believed!

  4. So glad to hear! I don’t know about you, but I spent more time changing myself in the end than my son. I had emotional struggles to reach acceptance as I am someone who does tend to conform to perceived norms. I also had to stretch myself in examining society’s definition of happiness and friendship. It was an amazing paediatrician who set me on the path to begin with by saying if I didn’t accept my son then how could I expect anyone else to do so. He also told me my son would need to find kindred spirits rather than BNP’s (Boring Normal People). And he has found a kindred spirit of late and they are the most unusual, quirky, and amusing pair together. Such a blessing.

  5. Pingback: Weekend Treats | Visible and Real

  6. Ariane, I”m so glad I came across your insightful post on acceptance.
    I have been studying and writing a lot about acceptance lately–what it means, how it works, and how to effectively practice it. I define true acceptance as accepting people as they are–without judgment or resentment, which is essentially what you express in the last part of your post. I hadn’t, however, focused on the value of accepting ourselves as a means of accepting others. Thank you for that nugget!

    When you have the chance, you might want to read an article on my blog entitled “5 Keys to Practicing Acceptance”–a key one of which is facing and addressing our fears.

    Danny Miller

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