Self Acceptance: Accepting Where you Are to Get to Where You’d Like to Be

Self acceptance is difficult. This is a subject I know something about. I’m a baker now and I have been for a while. But I’ve gone to school for a variety of different occupations. I began my college career as a social worker. After social work, I tried my hand at design and went to architecture school. Then when I found out that architects worked an 80 hour weeks, I decided to try my hand at writing.

Finding Your Way

So I earned my degree in English, with a communications minor. The plan was to write for a newspaper. I hadn’t given the idea a lot of thought, otherwise I may have looked around and realized that that wasn’t the most stable career choice. With newspapers becoming part of a bygone era. When I graduated, I didn’t have a backup plan for what I’d do if my career of choice didn’t pan out.

In my defense, I didn’t have a lot of guidance. None actually. I was taking stabs in the dark at what I thought might bring me a sense of satisfaction. I realize now a lot of the choices I made were ways of keeping me locked in a trauma cycle. Reliving parts of my past. But I still needed to find out how I was going to pay back the federal government for supporting me through my extended college years. And I had racked up quite the debt.

Doing What’s Easy Isn’t Always the Best Career Path

So I baked. It was easy because I was already doing it, and I was pretty good at it considering I had fallen into the job. Why I’m writing about it now is, that I’ve been thinking about what I’ll be doing in the next five years. And where I’d like to be in my career in the future.

I enjoy some aspects of baking. For example when you have a good bake and the ears (those pockets of dough that rise up on a loaf of bread), leaving an elegant envelope of smartly creased crust is satisfying. Seeing them all in a row, lined up down the length of the oven in a symmetrical pattern. That is a good feeling.

Ears on loaves of sourdough I baked

But there are some aspects of the job that aren’t so pleasant as well. For instance, my Serve Safe certificate that I had to recertify. In the online course I took, I never heard the term, fecal-oral route, used so many times in 8 hours. Then I was tested on it!

Switching Gears to Find a Fulfilling Career

It’s situations like these that are the drive behind my wanting to change careers. And it’s not that I’m avoiding self acceptance and where I’m at. I just don’t have the memories associated with baking that, I imagine most people do. The one that make them want to bake in the first place. I never watched my grandmother lovingly labor over baked goods. My grandmother was more the type to slam your thumb in the car door of an old Buick Regal at the tender age of 5. No bueno.

Which brings me to my most current iteration of my career outlook. I’m planning on going back for social work. I know the pitfalls of growing up in a family that is unstable at best. I feel as though I may have some wisdom to impart and the ability to tolerate horrific stories more than most. But to make it from bread baker to social worker, it’s going to take some maneuvering.

Self Acceptance is Accepting your Circumstances

When I was getting recertified for the serve safe certificate, I had to take an eight hour long course before taking the test. I found myself getting a little restless. As though I deserved to be elsewhere. Instead of stuck in front of a computer screen relearning what I already knew. I should be doing work that matters. But instead I heard the term, “fecal oral route” more times than I could count. And I just wanted to be done with the whole experience. Not just the test, but the early, cold mornings, the stressful environment, not getting any holidays off save for Christmas day, all of it. I was a little grumpy and definitely not in a frame of mind of self acceptance.

Then I took the test and got in the 95% and crossed the task off my todo list. I told the GM I would give him a link to the site so we could get other employees trained. And also got reimbursed for the price of the course. In short, I took care of myself. I took stock of the small accomplishments I achieved along the way. And I helped a few people in the process. It felt good to know that I could count on myself and achieve my goals, no matter how small they may seem.

Understanding Where You Are

Because it’s in these moments of understanding where you are and what you can do to make it better that brings you to a place of self acceptance. Of what needs to be done to move yourself forward. And that we build accountability to ourselves. Knowing that WE are the resource that is going to get us to where we want to be.

I could have kept putting off taking the exam. But knowing that I will take care of business, no matter how unpleasant the task may seem, moving forward by accepting where I am and pushing through, makes me feel as though I’m capable of achieving greater things. And I feel that it’s this mind set that ultimately will guide us to the places we’d like to be and self acceptance. Also while navigating through the here and now.

Making a Plan to Move Forward by Accepting Where You are

This may seem common sense to most. And honestly, I hope this is the case. But I’ve seen to many friends and loved ones stall in their lives because they had no one model the mindset of self acceptance and accepting where they were by using wise discernment. To devise a course of action and follow through with the plan.

God knows the role-models I had all complained about how so and so was doing them wrong. Or how unfair life is rather than practicing some self acceptance and taking accountability for their situation. That said, when you’ve experienced abuse it’s difficult to navigate the waters of accountability. And being in that category I have empathy for those making an honest go of moving forward. Regardless of how difficult it gets. And it gets weird at times. That’s for sure!

Wishing Things Were Different Make You Lose Sight Of Where You Are

And if you’re constantly wishing things were different and not accepting where you’re at, you may miss out on some of the tender moments along the way. I used to bake in Salem MA, so every Halloween there would be swarms of people descending on the city. My shift was the 3-11pm bake shift. At the end of my day I’d be sitting in the bakery waiting for my loaves to finish in the oven. Usually with the door cracked open to let the crisp autumn air in along with the sounds of merriment from the festivities happening around the city.

Drunk people would stumble by, asking for bread, make-up smeared in unintended ways while struggling with gravity. It was nice. If I stopped to think about how I didn’t want to be there in the first place or all the negative things that happened during the day, I may have missed those relaxing moments. Or how good my bake looked.

Self Acceptance, Never Give Up on Your Dreams

So Self acceptance is really another way of saying, never give up on your dreams. No matter how crazy they may seem. Because it’s when you accept where you’re at, that you’re able to organize your situation, make a plan to get out of it and move forward with your plans. But don’t forget to make room for the present while you’re chasing after your future goals. Because that’s where life is ultimately lived.

Self acceptance and accepting where you are leads to accountability, which leads to trust, which leads to ease, which leads to living in the present. Long story short, pay attention to your surroundings while you’re on your way and you may have some good stories to tell. Peace, and thanks for reading :]

For more on the topic of self acceptance, check out these articles:

Knowing What Support Looks Like

Self Worth is Not Determined by How Much You Do for Other

Image Credits: “Winding Path Draped in Mist” by Moose Winans is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Reparenting Resistance to Training: Why a Good Workout Builds More Than Just Strength

My workout of choice is running and yoga. I love the feeling of being out on the road, ending my fourth mile at the top of a hill and also knowing that the ocean’s breeze is just ahead of me, waiting on the other side. I also love the calm on my mat right after we finish our vinyasa and I’m lying prone in savasana, letting the energy from my workout settle over me. But it wasn’t always that way.

Building Healthy Workout Habits

For a long time I avoided working out at almost any cost. Even though I played baseball and soccer in my youth, while also taking taekwondo lessons, I historically have struggled with any form of physical activity since I started middle school. There were some exceptions. Like when I decided to lift weights for stints of two months, every five or so years. But nothing that lasted for very long. So it was to my complete surprise when about four years ago I took to running as a workout and practicing yoga on a regular basis.

I’m not sure what got into me, but I took to both yoga and running so quickly that I was running half marathons in a little under a year’s time and I was doing yoga twice a week. I was making great strides in my overall fitness level and it felt good.

I attribute much of my motivation levels to my quitting smoking, drinking and playing video games. But also as much credit goes to my living situation being the most stable it has been since my early childhood. Probably around the time I stopped playing all the sports I used to engage with in my youth. I had been so worried about my survival first and belonging second, that any energy I had went to those two efforts. These worries consumed my thoughts and dictated my actions.

Finding Stability, Finding Healthy Workout Routines

As I would come to find out, I had been hyper vigilant due mostly to my past abuse, that lead directly to my developing PTSD. I didn’t realize it then, but I was expending great amounts of energy keeping my feelings guarded and isolating from others. I was so guarded that I was dissociating from both my feelings and body almost constantly.

Once my living situation stabilized and I was able to take stock of what personal resources and achievements I had to build from, I realized I didn’t have many. I had spent so much of my time running from every aspect of my life that I had maybe two friends that were well adjusted and stable. I had loads of debt and was pretty physically unhealthy as well. So I suppose it was only natural to take to something like running to get in touch with my body and take control of my health. Yoga helped to slow me down enough to feel what was happening in my body, as well as getting acquainted with the parts of my body I had been neglecting for so long.

Turning Exercise Into A Resource

Running specifically, was a source of pride and accomplishment for me. I could track the progress in mileage and in time, with visible results. As I said above I was running 13.1 miles from 2 miles inside of a year, so I began to look much healthier pretty quickly. Also the neighborhoods and scenery I was running in and around were beautiful. It helped that I had some running buddies along the way as well. Thanks Jenny : )

One such beautiful run filled with both scenery and running buddy was when I ran a rely-marathon with a friend from Vermont. The course carved through downtown Burlington and the views of Lake Champlain, while running up and down the city’s hilly roads which were lined with rows of vibrant green conifers. This all set behind the clear, glassy lake that reflected the sapphire sky and its low lying supple clouds. It was beautiful.

The run was beautiful, but also running along side so many other people was more supportive than I would have thought. There’s always an excitement on race day. Like this run REALLY matters. No matter how many times you’ve run the course or the race, it feels special knowing there are so many like minded people gathering to achieve the same goal.

Finding Support, Finding Direction, Finding Connection

The feelings of support and community are also true of yoga classes. The dimly lighted room, the open space filled with yoga mats politely distanced to give room to the people surrounding you. And soothing music softly playing as people prepare for the class by coming to stillness and quiet on their mats. The quiet flow of synchronized movement while each person follows the instructors direction to the best of their ability with focused intentions and minds. And finally the release of the session’s work as it melts away from your body leaving you feeling relaxed and filled with life, as you finish your day’s practice in savasana.

My workout routines have been a large influence on my healing path as well. From the time of my abuse till I was in my early thirties, I had no real goals or aspirations to rise to in my life. I was listlessly floating around from situation to relationship to circumstance, completely uncertain about what was going to happen to me or my future. I didn’t feel as though I really had a future to speak of. After I woke up into my emotions and realized I hadn’t any shape or form to my life, running and yoga were two ways I was able to give some structure to my life.

Running and Support

Running was a way for me to understand that I could achieve something, however small. The distances I ran and the connections I made with the people I ran with were markers for me. Markers that allowed me to cultivate a sense of accomplishment. Even if it was only making the jump from mile six to mile seven, I was proud of that mile. As though that mile showed me I could overcome something. Achieve what I never thought I was able to accomplish before. And I didn’t feel it in the moment, rather it was looking back where I felt the accomplishment of my actions.

Or the five mile buddy runs I used to run with my friend Jenny, around the neighborhoods of my past. The unconditional friendship and feelings of accomplishment of consistently running five miles that accompanied me through the streets that I had so associated with past failures. They gave me the strength to feel better about the choices I was making. Instead of the choices I had made, while building tighter emotional bonds with friends.

Yoga

And with yoga it helped me to feel comfortable around people again. Something I was having trouble with while being present in my body. I had been so used to drinking and using medication to soothe myself while around others, that I forgot how to be around someone while in an unaltered state. Yoga, with its comforting setting and gentle flow, while also being a challenging workout, showed me how to be in my body, while I was experiencing discomfort. And to experience these emotions, not only in my body but while being surrounded by like minded people, felt good. Supportive.

Reconnecting To My Body

As I’ve mentioned above I had maybe two friends who stuck with me and were supportive. Most of the people I had surrounded myself with before I woke up emotionally were critical, angry and viciously mean. Both my friends and especially my family were very cold and very cutting. It was no wonder that I was so detached from my body and emotions. Every time I stepped foot inside myself I felt as though I was under attack!

Running and yoga were ways for me to know I could achieve physical health goals if I committed to them, but that they were also ways of being in my body and surrounded by people while feeling safe and being present. Furthermore, I felt that I could choose to make the healthy choices by surround myself with people who I felt safe being around. That helped to show me that I had the agency I felt I lacked for so long, to make healthy choices for myself. I could choose how my future was going to unfold. I could stop wandering so listlessly and find some focus, some center to regain control of my life.

Becoming a Healthier Version Of Myself

I suppose this is why sports are so important for young people. Something to give them the stable yet supportive community that they may be lacking elsewhere in their lives. I know it was for me and I was in my thirties when I started. A younger me would have scoffed at the idea of finding support and feeling good about building healthy habits. But looking back, on what my dedication and the support from loved ones has given me, I could only imagine what it would have done for a younger version of myself.

Fortunately, we don’t have to be experiencing some great trauma to develop a new healthy workout routine such as running or yoga. The benefits are equally as gratifying either way. Also, the more we make showing up for ourselves a habit, by way of committing to our workouts and physical health, the greater the trust we nurture in our own lives will be. Tara Brach a Buddhist psychologist who I’ve mentioned before on this blog, gave a talk related to the support I’ve been talking about. The way Tara puts it is, “that it’s not the survival of the fittest, it’s the survival of the nurtured.” And for me the more often I reflect on this piece of wisdom, the truer it becomes.

So if you haven’t started a workout such as running or yoga, or maybe swimming or tennis has always appealed to you, I urge you to pursue these interests. Be inquisitive and explore your personality some. Maybe hiking has been in the back of your mind, waiting for the time to be right to pick it up and see where it takes you. Make the time for yourself and show up. But be kind to yourself on the way and be consistent. The more you practice, the better it becomes.

One of the reasons I like yoga so much is that there is no competition, no judgement. You show up just as you are. And that will always be enough. Whatever interests or predilections you have, foster them. Who knows where they’ll take you, but wherever it is, it will be satisfying. And you’ll be building support, but also confidence and trust in yourself along the way. Happy trails and Namaste :]

Image Credits: Hot Yoga at The Mat in Liberty Lake, WA. by LibertyLakeAnne is licensed under CC0 1.0

Edited 5/27/22

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