I am a staunch proponent of self-acceptance and being your truest, weirdest self. In fact, that’s been the guiding principle behind Sweatpants & Coffee. Be comfortable. Be you. Do what brings you joy.
However, since none of us live in a bubble (if you do live in a bubble, please disregard this and also please tweet me a pic) we must be considerate of each other. This way, there are fewer stabbings and passive-aggressive Facebook posts. As humans, it’s pretty much our job to figure out why we’re here, what we want out of life, and how to be happy. If we don’t take the time to think about this stuff, we become horrible, unpleasant creatures that no one wants to sit with at lunch.
This excellent blog by Matt Walsh had me nodding my head and emphatically banging my coffee mug on the desk. Amen, brother! Sing it! Being yourself doesn’t mean walking around without a filter or disregarding the feelings or boundaries of others. That’s not being yourself; that’s being a toddler. You are an inherently worthy person. Yes, you, the person reading this. You deserve goodness and love and fulfillment, but you don’t get to swing your feelings around like a club, crying, “I HAVE A FEELING AND I WILL BEAT YOU WITH IT BECAUSE THIS IS ME BEING ME!” You aren’t a special snowflake because you have a feeling. You are entitled to your feelings and they are neither right nor wrong, but your behavior is a different matter. That’s the tricksy part. Your feelings live inside your heart (quietly), but your behavior has the potential to affect other people. You get to feel any way you want, but you don’t get to hurt me or disregard my boundaries, and I don’t get to do that to you.
Self-love means recognizing yourself as intrinsically valuable. You don’t have to justify the fact of your existence to anyone. You don’t have to do an emotional tap dance to earn your place on this planet. You’re here because you’re here, and that’s an awesome thing. No one else can bring the unique youness of you to the world. (Stay tuned for my New Age instrumental pan flute album by that title.)
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be kind and considerate. It doesn’t mean you should spew out every negative thought or feeling because holding it in would be dishonest. Learning to control and properly process your anger and hurt and frustration are parts of self-acceptance, I’ve found. My awful temper is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t need to rule me. And I certainly don’t need to inflict it on others simply because it will feel good or offer some relief in the moment. It’s part of me; it’s not me.
In Psychology Today, Leon Seltzer, Ph D., writes about self-esteem (our own perceived value) vs. self-acceptance (a wholehearted affirmation of the self). The nitty gritty is that if you want better self-esteem, you should practice self-acceptance, which includes recognizing and embracing the yuckier parts of yourself. Your shadow side, he calls it, referring to the term coined by Jung. Part of that embrace means practicing control. “Further, even as we come to accept our shadow side we can still maintain voluntary control over how these parts of us are expressed–that is, in ways that can ensure safety both to ourselves and others.” See yourself, love yourself, but don’t be a douchebag.
My challenge is this: love yourself enough to give yourself boundaries, the same way a loving parent sets boundaries for her child. As always, I’m talking primarily to myself (“Get your head in the game, Hoffman!”). I accept that I’m not perfect and that I will fuck up (on an occasionally epic scale), but I will not diminish the feelings of others by insisting that they have to accept my shittiness. Instead, what I ask from my loved ones is that they remember I’m always trying. I need them to call me on my crap so I can get better. I need to gently do the same to them so that we can be better. This is not easy, especially when my hormones are a-riot or I’m on a crazy schedule, but I’m up for it. Who’s with me?