Financial freedom is great. But freedom from self-induced internal suffering is even greater. Why is it that in childhood we cared so less about how our body looked, how we were perceived by others, what we did and the self in totality? It is crazy how acceptance of self has been lost over the years as we turn adults. I want to share my experience of how simple moments of acceptance can make us feel peaceful. I believe if you try to implement this idea you might too feel grounded in yourself.
I went on vacation this December and realised a few things about myself in greater depth. I have lived with anxiety for the past several years. And I don’t know how I became so self-cautious of my body. I’ve been lanky all my life and people have mocked me for it but it never affected me. In fact, it bounced right back out of my ears. I never took such comments seriously to the degree they affected my internal peace and thoughts. I felt comfortable in my own body.
Maybe you can relate to me with this example. When you hurt your leg all your attention is on it, but once recovered you don’t even feel your leg. In a way, you aren’t very cautious of your leg. But when hurt you are preoccupied with that hurt. So even though I was lanky I was always happy with the way my body looked. Rather I wasn’t concerned at all because I was feeling so alive with motivation and curiosity of intellect. My body didn’t feel “heavy” in a sense.
But today the story is different. The comments stick with me. I have become self-critical. I go shopping and I don’t like clothes as they look better on someone else. I want someone to take pictures in which I don’t look too lanky. I prefer close-up portraits. I always keep my body stiff so it doesn’t look bendy. Because of this, I can’t even breathe deeply and I find it extremely hard to relax in public. I am always cautious of my weight. Even a loss of Kg makes me feel pathetic. I am not ventilating but only trying to paint a picture of what goes on in my mind when I am not accepting the way I look.
We were 6 people on this vacation and one was responsible for planning the entire trip because naturally, he was more enthusiastic about it. I saw the same thing in him. Let’s call him Ben. In this scenario, Ben was suffering from trying to make others happy. At every destination we went to, he was continuously stressed about planning for the next. I never saw him relaxed during the entire trip! All members of the group talked to him about this and he would say “I feel terrible when I can’t keep others happy, I feel responsible for others’ happiness” He was trying to make this trip perfect and hassle-free. He did a good job but at what cost? Vacation and work days were the same for him.
We had different problems but we were suffering from the same thing. It’s not sensible to take control of others’ happiness. It is not sensible to get people to like me forcefully.
We only have problems when we chose to have them. How can a thing be a problem and not a problem in two different time zones? Body dissatisfaction wasn’t a problem to me but now it is. Why is that so? What changed? There has to be something in my thought pattern that changed due to which I created this problem for myself. If I could accept myself in the past why not now?
The answer is, the need for being perfect was killing us. We were unable to relax. We all seek perfection but at what cost?
Do you see how we create problems for ourselves? Even if something went sideways on the trip it wouldn’t have mattered because he was our friend. We were on the trip because we wanted a good time not because it had to be perfect. For who did he exhaust so much for? Us? We already accept all his imperfections, there was no need for stressing out so much! Even if I am lanky it doesn’t matter because I can’t get everyone to like me. The one who likes me, will like me either way and that is what matters, so who am I exhausting myself so much for?
This is self-induced suffering. When we are not content or satisfied with our current situations. Socrates said, “Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.”
Throughout the trip, I had moments of anxiety caused by trying to look perfect, stiff my body, etc. And each time I reminded myself “I can’t get everyone to like me. The one who likes me, will like me either way and that is what matters, so who am I exhausting myself so much for?” My mind and body relaxed. Instead of trying to be perfect, I tried to be content.
There is tremendous freedom in accepting the things which cause us dissatisfaction. Simply saying “It is what it is” is so powerful. At least to me. There are certain factors that we can’t control and trying to control them leads to suffering. We know this but we forget it. When we accept our worst all the weight of the anchor is released. Literally, it feels like that. In the chest area. Intuitively I feel even though on the surface we all have different self-created problems but at the core, it is the same. This reminds me of a quote “Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”- Khalil Gibran
Every time I have tried to control anything, my life has felt labour.
Some want to be perceived as rich and so exhaust themselves for that validation under debt. Some do unhealthy things that they think will make them look “cool” whereas internally they don’t want to do it. Some have FOMO, and just to keep up they take unplanned actions. Sadly those who never stop to question, live their entire life under pressure. Imagine how difficult it is to live like this. Trying to control and not accept the self as it is.
What about you? What are you dissatisfied with? What are you overly cautious of? What would you like to accept? To what things would you like to say “it is what it is” and sigh? For just a moment of peace, what would you like to release?
“We are more often frightened than hurt and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” Seneca
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One thought on “The freedom in self acceptance”
Being concerned about a foreign opinion is absurd but turning self-doubt into self-analysis can be beneficial. Not everything in life has to be controlled because then life may feel like labor as you said but we can take hold of our future by taking charge of our habits. Being lanky or fat or mentally weak or anything else are ok if a person accepts it but sometimes self-doubt may motivate a person for the better. Sometimes hustle is contenment because it gives us so much more confidence. And this confidence is a beautiful acceptance.