“Live your life for you, not for anyone else. Don’t let the fear of being judged, rejected or disliked stop you from being yourself.” ~Sonya Parker
I have struggled with my different-ness since I was young. I grew up trying to change the things that made me different in order to fit in. At home, my parents were doing their best to raise three young children, which I can imagine would’ve been very hard.
I can still remember the first time I asked myself, “What is wrong with me?” I loved to take my time and have everything neat and tidy; my family, on the other hand, was the complete opposite.
Being neat and tidy reflected in the way I would dress myself. One morning, when I was getting ready for my first day of school, my parents gave me socks to wear that didn’t match. I got very upset, and although they tried to understand what the problem was, they couldn’t help but be frustrated with me, as I was making the morning more difficult.
We were also running late. I wanted to take my time and not be hurried. This caused us to run even later and made my parents even more stressed. I felt so guilty to have made them feel like this.
I wanted to belong and feel loved by them, so I tried my hardest to change the things about me that seemed to cause them stress.
Trying to change these things that were a big part of who I was created inner conflict, and I would have big tantrums as a result. This would cause my parents stress as well, so eventually I stopped expressing my feelings.
I became ashamed of the things that made me different. I was shy. I loved lots of time on my own. I had dark skin.
I wanted to be accepted to avoid judgment and rejection. During school, other kids teased me for not having many friends. I felt so hurt and alone that I started a constant battle within myself to change my different-ness.
I forced myself to be more social. I searched for ways to change the color of my skin. I stopped giving myself the alone time I wanted. I stopped expressing how I was feeling.
This went on for the next twenty years. Since I spent my whole life trying to fit in, I never really got to know my true self. It was incredibly exhausting and I was very unhappy.
It took having kids to wake me up. The love I had for my two boys gave me the drive to search for another way to live.
I wanted my boys to love and accept themselves for who they were, differences and all, but how was I to teach them if I didn't even know how? I needed to be the example.
I finally discovered some things that empowered me to embrace my differences. I was amazed at the life changing effect it had on me.
When you embrace who you are:
1. You stop living in fear.
The choices I make in life are no longer dependent on what other people will think, whether I will be judged, disliked, or rejected. I just focus on being me.
In the past, I feared what people would think of me for choosing to have a few close friends instead of a huge social circle and spending a lot of time on my own. Now that I accept that this is me, I feel a sense of freedom.
Trying to be someone you’re not is exhausting. Being your true self is a courageous thing to do in a world that is constantly trying to change you. When you realize that living the life you want is more important than pleasing other people, suddenly you feel free.
2. You form deeper, more connected relationships.
In the past, I've had my fair share of not-so-good relationships. People would connect to the fake me, so they were never genuine relationships.
I was able to sift through my relationships by loving my differences and being myself. This allowed the right people to come into my life who loved the real me. My relationships are now all fulfilling and genuine.
If you want people to accept you for who you are, you first have to show them who that is.
3. You treat yourself more kindly.
I saw myself as weird so I would constantly put myself down and beat myself up. The negative self-talk was painful.
In accepting my “weirdness,” I went from telling myself, “Because of my differences, I’m worthless and no one will ever love me,” to “I have to be true to myself. The people who really matter will accept me for who I am.”
It was so liberating, I started to feel the happiest I've ever felt.
4. You’re better able to find your passion.
When hiding my true self, I could never know my strengths. I'm a compassionate person, which makes me good at helping people. I found that this is what I love to do and it's my passion.
After learning this about myself, I was able to offer my friends and family advice when they needed help. I branched out and started my own blog, which is my main creative outlet where I can combine my passion for writing and helping people.
Once you allow yourself to be who you are, you’re free to find what you’re good at and what you love to do.
5. You start appreciating yourself.
When you truly embrace your differences, you begin to find reasons to appreciate them. I’ve always been ashamed of my introverted nature, thinking it was a weakness. Only recently have I started to embrace it. I now appreciate that it allows me to enjoy time on my own, which is where I’m the most creative.
I’ve finally discovered my strengths and weaknesses. I own them and I am grateful for them both because they make me who I am.
When you start seeing your “weaknesses” as potential strengths, you develop a whole new sense of appreciation for yourself.
I hope these lessons can help you learn to embrace your differences without having to become a parent to do it—and if you are already a parent, then I hope this can inspire you so you too can pass on self-acceptance to your children.
Photo by Jesus Solana