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Mental Health

How Self Acceptance and Truly Knowing Yourself Will Change Your Life (and Possibly the World)

Are you nice to you or do you talk down to yourself? Without even realising it, you could be chipping away at your confidence every hour of every day. There is much to be said for making peace with all our flaws and the person we perhaps thought we’d be, but didn’t quite manage to be. If we want to truly know ourselves and tune into what makes us tick, so we can attain contentment and happiness, the process of self acceptance is absolutely imperative.

I have two questions for you

  • Do you actively do things you know will bring misery?
  • Is your day made up of a series of obligations and annoyances?

If you honestly answered no and no, then you probably don’t need to read the rest of this piece. If not, then you almost definitely do. All I ask is for you to keep an open mind, and read it in its entirety. Grab a cuppa, and be prepared for some unpleasant feelings to surface. Dealing with these emotions head on might not have an instant impact on your life, but it will lead somewhere amazing eventually. Of that I can personally guarantee. You ready? Let’s go…

self acceptance

Every single person I know does things they know will make them unhappy. Myself included, although for me they are minor miseries which are easy to get over. All of us have certain things we simply have to do, whether we like it or not (changing a stinking nappy is a great example). Getting over the big stuff isn’t so easy. Be it going to work in a job you hate, because it pays the bills. Or sending the kids to schools they hate, because you don’t have the headspace to contemplate an alternative. Staying in a dead end marriage or living in a place you despise because you are convinced it’s the “right thing to do” for now.

Over time these things will cause your soul to feel like it’s being crushed, on a daily, maybe even an hourly, basis. I have seen so many people fall into rabbit holes of despair over the last few years. Rendered completely incapable of dealing with anything over and above the bare minimum. Unfortunately, the way most of us are living our lives isn’t nourishing, and it certainly is not conducive to a journey of self acceptance.

We’re taught from a young age to tune out. Disconnect, disengage. If something doesn’t bring us immediate gratification, then it must be binned. Relationships are dispensable. Friendships aren’t valued. Clever marketing constantly makes us feel like we’re missing out on something. Or worse, that we’re worth less than the next person. From as young as my earliest childhood memories, I have been force fed an idea that buying stuff will make me happy. I realised long ago this wasn’t the case, but it did not happen all by itself.

self acceptance

My realisations did not come easily; they came through mental breakdown and being forced to take a long, hard look in the mirror

For those of you who are new to my story, I had an accelerated leap into “adulthood” at fifteen years old. After a punch in the face, which almost broke my nose. Which came hot on the heels of an attempted suicide. It was supposed to be my first day back at school after two weeks off, but an argument with my step-father changed my destiny. At that point I was still under the impression he was my biological father, having been lied to all my life.

Cue ten full years of self-destructive behaviour. I drank too much and partied so hard that I sometimes reflect back and wonder how I’m still standing. Yes it was fun at the time, most of the time, but what goes up must eventually come down. My first mental breakdown led me to an amazing counsellor, and a path towards self acceptance. In the time between my first and second mental breakdown (and proper rock bottom) I met my husband, and lots of incredible, life long friends. After rock bottom I did a hell of a lot of work on myself. So I could stare at that reflection in the mirror and not look away. In recent years I have been tested beyond words by the challenges presented by my autistic daughter, and the decision to home educate all three children.

As a society we’re at breaking point. People have never been so utterly apathetic to the issues that should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I truly believe there is a huge correlation between this and the way we view ourselves. Trouble is, unless you are exceptionally fortunate (as in born under a lucky star) then your own journey will no doubt have a story attached to it like mine does. I’m not entirely sure it’s even possible to truly know ourselves, let alone accept ourselves, if we’ve never done a deep dive into our own wants and needs.

self acceptance

How much do you like your body?

Such a loaded question! Most of the women I know and lots of men – covering teens through to 60’s from all corners of the world – are not happy with their bodies. Either through ingrained shame, or simply being conned by the media into believing we should look a certain way – it’s not as easy as it sounds to just decide to be content with the way we look. Here’s the thing: I am very nearly forty and have carried three babies. My clothes are at mostly a UK size 8. Yet somehow, for my entire adult life, I’ve been convinced that I need to lose some weight. It’s absolutely ridiculous and needs to stop.

As I wrote about here, vigorous exercise simply doesn’t work for me – it sends my cortisol levels sky rocketing. Gentle yoga and walking suits me better, but it isn’t going to give me a six pack any time soon. If exercise if your thing (like it is for my husband) then good for you. But for so many of us, moving little and often is going to be more beneficial to our mental health than going to the gym and working out so hard we want to puke three times a week.

I feel sad that it’s taken me so long to come to terms with this, but I’m glad I’m finally at peace. Having wobbly bits is part and parcel of getting older, and no matter how much some of us are in denial about that, there is absolutely nothing we can do about the ageing process. It happens to us all. I can highly recommend checking out these Instagram accounts for lots of body positive inspo:

I_WEIGH / Jameela Jamil
Molly J Forbes
The Sex Doctor

self acceptance

How well are you nourishing yourself?

As I wrote about in this piece, for years we were duped into thinking sugar wasn’t that bad and fat was the devil itself. Now we know otherwise, but shock-of-all-horrors many people are addicted to sugar (or the elephant in the kitchen as I call it). We absolutely have to start accepting that good nutrition is essential for brain functionality and our overall health. Links from the gut to the brain are no longer even seen as “woo” as they were up until a few years ago. Here’s the thing though: attaining gut health is so much simpler than it’s made out to be. All it means is feeding our gut with food and drink that help the good bacteria (gut flora) flourish.

Trouble is, for most of us, our inner voices scream “you can’t do it. Gut health is only for educated, privileged people!” Believe me, it’s not. Home made fermented food and drink is the easiest (and cheapest!) way to promote gut health, and it’s been around forever. If you look into any traditional diet going back centuries, you’ll find that fermentation was a huge part of it. Nowadays we have books and blogs galore to enlighten us and show us how to make delicious, nutrient dense, food and drink.

In recent years the western world has become heavily reliant upon processed food and it shows. Autoimmune disease stats are through the roof, mental health problems get worse each year. Yet we’re only starting to join the dots between what we eat and how our bodies and minds function. When we have a healthy gut, everything else works. In turn, when everything is working well we are able to make good decisions. We’re able to face up to our challenges, look our demons in the eye. Even when life is ridiculously tough, we will survive. Check out these gut health Instagrammers:

Dr. Axe
Modern Food Stories
Happy Gut Happy Head

self acceptance

Are you doing your bit for the environment?

An enlightening discussion with a lovely friend, Sophie, who blogs at Raising Revolutionaries, put Extinction Rebellion on my radar. It inspired me to see the protests with my own eyes and I am now fully onboard with how terrifying the climate catastrophe is. If change doesn’t happen, in a drastic way, floods, fires and natural disasters will become par for the course. Animals will start rapidly dying out. Bees won’t be around to pollinate our crops, the list is endless. I can only hope our politicians start dealing with this horrendous mess we’re in.

For us, in every day life, we have absolutely got to start talking with our wallets. Stop spending money with evil corporations who have no one’s best interests at heart (only the bank balance of their shareholders). Big businesses need to wake up and realise there won’t be any money to be made if we’ve destroyed the planet to the point of no return. When all is said and done, we can’t take money to the grave or eat it, can we? I find it baffling how it’s come to this. I can highly recommend checking out these ridiculously inspirational eco Instagram accounts:

Lulastic and the Hippy Shake
Ali Clifford / IncrediBusy
Fashion Revolution

self acceptance

How does all this relate to self acceptance, you might be wondering?

Ultimately, when we’re making good decisions, it boosts our confidence. Call it a snowball effect or a positive spiral. When we are seen doing truly amazing things, others are inspired by them. Dare I say it, influenced even. We need to learn to tune out to FOMO and start tuning into what makes us truly tick. I’m convinced there is a very uncomplicated formula for happiness, and it goes something like this:

1. Self acceptance is the key to everything! Deal with your past, no matter how dark it is, or trivial in comparison to what others have been through. It’s yours, own it. Otherwise it will have too much of a hold on your present and the future will look rather bleak. You might find my book Become the Best You helpful in your quest.

2. Nourish yourself so you are able to make good decisions. People, food, work and hobbies all fall into this category. Once we have accepted ourselves, we’ll be able to look in the mirror and not be ashamed or upset. This is where the magic starts happening. Every single one of our other relationships will benefit as a result.

3. Turn your failures into life lessons that will ensure future success. In the song Sweetest Decline, the very talented Beth Orton has some exceptionally poignant advice for us all. “What are regrets? Just lessons we haven’t learnt yet.” Don’t allow regret to drag you down into the abyss. Turn what society perceives as failing on it’s head, and into a way to do things better next time. When I declared bankruptcy in 2008, it was the final piece of my jigsaw puzzle, post mental breakdown and rock bottom. My relationship with money and all-the-stuff desperately needed to change, and it genuinely could not look more different these days.

4. Do your bit for others, starting with the planet. Mother earth does not discriminate based on race, gender or socio-economic background. I’m convinced that if we all start uniting in our commonest of causes (climate change) it will eventually trickle down into every single aspect of society.

5. If you have kids, do everything in your power to give them a childhood they don’t spend a lifetime having to recover from. Once you have points 1-4 sewn up, this will start to come easily. Or should I say a lot easier than if you haven’t.

If you have anything to add, tweet me @mummytries

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