Radical Self-Acceptance

I’m going to ask you to entertain a really radical idea. This idea flies in the face of all our social, religious, and moral programming. It is shocking and may take some serious and dedicated effort to even think about at all. This idea is that you are perfect exactly as you are at this moment. There is nothing to fix, change, improve, or do differently to make yourself perfect. You already are perfect. Notice how your body responds to this statement. Go ahead and close your eyes and really feel what is going on in your body and mind. Locate all sensations, tensions, and ways your body is moving. Listen to the thoughts that are arising. Notice if you have an urge to put the book down, throw it, or take any other action. Notice if you have gone absolutely still, and can’t respond at all.

Now that you are familiar with your response, let’s consider this idea again. You are perfect exactly as you are at this moment. Go ahead and let yourself react and then read on.

We have an entire culture that is built around the concept that there is nothing about us that is perfect, and we must continually work on ourselves to reach ever-increasingly high standards. For example, as methods for doing housework became increasingly efficient, standards for a clean house got higher and higher. Now, there are products to continuously vacuum the floor, because any speck of dirt is unacceptable. 100 years ago, people took the rugs outside and beat them once or twice a year.

Another example: take a look at television programs from the 1970s. Actors in those shows would not make in today’s television world, for the most part. They were not perfect enough by today’s standards. Perfectly straight, blindingly white teeth, flawless skin, uniform hairstyles—the harder people try, the farther away from natural the standards get. Now, regardless of the body shape people are born with, men are supposed to be hugely muscular and tall, while having a hairless body–something that rarely goes together, and women are somehow supposed to pull off being unhealthily thin, while having a large chest and curvy behind.

You might ask yourself why this is happening. The obvious reason is that money calls the shots for most of our culture. It is really hard to sell things to people who are happy with themselves and their life. If I love myself just as I am, I don’t need the diet pills, plastic surgery, tooth-whitening kit, expensive designer clothes, pricey exercise equipment, cosmetics, lotions, new cars, upscale home, name-brand headphones, and so on, and so on, that line the shelves and fill the television waves. The message being shoved down all of our throats every minute of the day in overt and sneaky ways is that we are not good enough, but if we buy the next new thing, we might get a little closer to being good enough. But, we never will, because standards will continue to change to make sure that we never arrive.

We often believe that these standards are universal, but they are not. Look up some paintings by Rubens  and you will see what I mean. In the early 1800s, a woman who looked like today’s supermodels would have been considered unattractive. In some cultures, it is the men who wear make up and try to attract the women.

What does this mean to you? It means that most of the things that you want so badly to change are just fine the way they are. If you were in another place and time, you wouldn’t care about them at all.

But also, absorb the radical Taoist idea that accepting yourself as you are is the best way to create change. Fighting what you hate gets you nowhere. Loving yourself as you are creates the space for you to be who you are at heart.

 

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