The groups we associate ourselves with play a huge role in how we see ourselves. Someone who sees herself as an Executive will start acting like someone who wants to be an Executive and being around environments that support her vision. It’s not enough to associate but to also be accepted by these groups because acceptance brings a sense of belonging, security, and purpose. This in turn allows you to live life more fully and in sync with your values and goals. However, this acceptance is elusive and fragile and you usually have to make sacrifices to fit in. What often goes unrecognized is that we look for acceptance for the right reasons but in the wrong places. Looking to ourselves for acceptance will allow us the ability to live free from judgement and maximize what we have to offer life.
Longing for Belonging
We all have this sense for needing to belong. After all, who wants to be somewhere where they aren’t wanted or accepted? Being a part of something bigger than ourselves gives us the ability to connect with others who share common values, goals, and visions. When we connect with others we see a part of ourselves in them. We share our thoughts, our lives, and being and upon acceptance of what we have to give, we then belong. It’s that feeling you get when you make new friends or join a new team and they invite you to hangout and you have a good time. When industry professionals recognize your work and contributions. When you’re a member of a Fraternity or Sorority and you have a tight bond with each other. When your family has their crazy holiday get-togethers (because that’s just family!). The feeling of belonging is created from these groups accepting you as one of them. And when you know you belong somewhere, you have accepted yourself as one with that environment. It’s the accepting of yourself that is the real key to belonging because you understand how you are and what it is you need to maximize your life. Gaining acceptance from others, on the other hand, is subjective and designed, naturally, for you to fit into it, even though it may or may not be the best fit. And since we want to find our place in life, we’ll continue looking for a better fit.
Seeking acceptance is like trying to catch a butterfly with your hands. If you try, you probably won’t catch it, but if you just be, one will land on you. The elusiveness of the butterfly represents the constant outreach to others to feel at peace and to live well. We’re always wanting to impress, fit in, be a part of, be in the loop, and be liked. Because then, the result of our efforts means we’ll be included and we will then belong. But if we have to sacrifice parts of ourselves in the process, we don’t really feel fully accepted anyway. So we continue looking for more acceptance from others. However, if you stand still and just be, a butterfly will surely land on you. Standing still and “just be” doesn’t mean do nothing and be nothing. It represents following your own values and seeing your goals and visions through to fruition because you know what you must do to maximize your life. You don’t need to catch the acceptance butterfly in order to feel fulfilled and live well. When you know and accept yourself, you live life rather than seek it and belonging comes to you.
Learning to Accept Yourself
When you’re trying to be somebody, one of the hardest things to do is to recognize who you are now. We’re so busy and get caught up trying to create, or reject, the image we have of ourselves and lose sight of who, and how, we are now. Learning to accept ourselves as we are today is about recognizing the impact our values, actions, and ways of living have on our lives and being OK with that. We must be OK with and not judge ourselves before we can understand what we are really capable of. When we use our self-worth as a punching bag, we limit ourselves based on false and old beliefs. Because when you can acknowledge yourself free of judgement, you open yourself up to a liberating way of living. You start living your truths and you learn to be present and navigate life. You stop chasing butterflies and start maximizing how you are. And if how you are is not OK with you, you can now take steps to change towards a better version of yourself.
Learning to accept yourself requires courage. You must acknowledge your demons and your shining moments alike. The times you were scared and the times you stood your ground. Know you are good at what you do and know what you are not the best at. Taking responsibility for your interaction with the world. Bringing these areas of yourself to light can be difficult, but not impossible. Which is why it’s a process of learning how to accept yourself over time. It takes practice, patience, and consistency to truly learn and understand what it means to accept yourself. And as you accept yourself more, the less dependent on other people’s acceptance you become. And once you’re free from trying to fit in, you get to choose where you belong and can start living life the way you choose.
Having groups we belong to is a healthy part of being a human. They help shape and expand who we are, but we have a tendency to rely too much on these groups for fulfillment and happiness in our lives. We often forget to look within ourselves and accept who we are and know we can change or emphasize our energy and control how we interact with the world. We don’t need to constantly seek attention and base our self-worth on other people’s value systems. We must seek to understand ourselves to the fullest extent because no matter what group you belong to, you’ll always be you.