Monday, August 22, 2011

Acceptance?

Acceptance.

This is something I have struggled with since I was a small child, every single day until right this very moment. I want to be loved. I want to be thought of well. I want to be considered smart, funny, creative, and cool.

I want YOU to think those things. I could lie and say, "It doesn't matter what you think, as long as I believe it." My head tells me that's the healthier thing to do. But my heart won't let me forget how it felt to be the last one picked for kickball on the playground, or how it felt when I told my funniest joke and no one laughed, or any one of the numerous times I was broken-hearted before meeting my wonderful Texan Papa. Each of those times sunk my heart and made me question my worth. It's not something anyone ever taught me (at least not consciously). I have a wonderful loving family. I'm just a person who needs my ego stroked. I need to know I'm important.

I need acceptance.

Sometimes, though, I need tough love more than I need acceptance. I need people who care about me to tell me that what I'm doing isn't smart, or healthy, or anything less than narcissistic. Of course, I am hoping that these people in my life who I love and who love me will do it in as gentle and tactful way as possible, keeping my feelings in mind.

But how does a person do that? How can we look someone we love straight in the eye, and tell them something that might crush them?

Case in point: about 5 years ago, I had some delusional thoughts about what my body still looked like. I firmly believed that my body hadn't heaved out 3 babies in 37 months and that I hadn't nursed them all. Add to it that I'd not really been very strict about keeping in shape (imagine the bicep curl from the Krispy Kreme box to my mouth. One! Bite! Two! Chew! Three more reps!!!) Add to THAT the fact that I wasn't exactly trim or fit to begin with (i.e. I was always the "base" on our cheerleading squad. Need I say more?) Add to THAT I still owned - and on this particular day was also wearing - some clothes from my pre-baby days.

My husband tried as gently as he could to let me know that some of my clothing choices just really weren't good choices. I can't remember his exact words but I do remember that he tried like hell to dance around the words "large" or "chubby" or "extra baby weight". I am pretty sure he used words like "too small" and "too tight" and "not the right size" and maybe even the phrase "I am a pastor at a church so you can't wear a halter top that cuts below your cleavage and is too short to cover your stretch marks."

I mean, my recollection is fuzzy. Maybe he didn't say "stretch marks" but he might as well have. I know what he was thinking.

And of course, my feelings were hurt. But, also, he was right. 97% of the clothes in my closet were perfectly fine, normal, age-appropriate clothes. But that little 3% of me wanted to hold onto the hope that I still could wear clothes that were size Medium. I wanted to believe that I could suck it in, and sit up straight, and tuck corners into the right places and everything would look fine. I wanted to dress in clothes that weren't right for me, but for some reason I thought those clothes would make me feel accepted by that age group I was leaving behind.

I needed that mirror to help me see what I couldn't see for myself. It's not about my husband thinking I'm fat. It's not about me wanting his approval and if I didn't get it then I'd be letting him down. It's about... he cared what I looked like and he didn't want me to look like a fool, going out dressed how I was dressed. He cared about me enough to help me see that I needed to wear clothes that were the right size for my body and the right style for ME.


Acceptance is a tricky thing. We all want to feel loved. We want to believe that the choices we are making are the right choices, that they are the same choices someone else would make if they were in our shoes. But the question we need to ask ourselves is this: are we doing any favors to a person by reinforcing the belief that no matter what you do, it's okay as long as YOU are comfortable with it?

Here's another example: I was talking to my best friend the other day about marriage, and fidelity, and our own commitment to marriage. It was no surprise that we both had friends who'd been through divorce due to adultery - either their own or their spouse's. We talked about how, if one of us were to ever have an affair but confide in the other about our actions, what would the response be? Would it be moral support? Would it be condemnation? Would it be ACCEPTANCE? We both agreed that it's okay to tell a friend - especially a good friend - that their behavior is not okay but that you love them still. If my friend had an extramarital affair and came to me, I would absolutely tell her that it was a bad choice. I would listen to her and tell her, "You've got a long road ahead of you. I am going to be by your side the entire way. But if you are wanting someone to tell you that what you did was okay, you won't hear it from me. Nothing you can do will change how much I love you, but I love you enough to help you see what, maybe, you can't see."


I'll say it again: Acceptance is a tricky thing. There's the whole "live and let live" theory. I guess, to some degree, I could see that, but I wouldn't call that acceptance. Maybe, tolerance? or maybe even, ignorance? Unfortunately, I like to ignore things that bother me, hoping they will go away. (my muffin top is proof positive of that. Let's just say, I have even had to reevaluate that 97% of my clothes since having babies #4 and #5.)

I just struggle with this because I know other people need acceptance, just like me. I feel like giving my acceptance to people I love is a way of showing them that I love them. But, like a double-edged sword, I also feel like telling someone that I accept their choices when I can see it's not good for them, I am showing them the OPPOSITE of love.

Gah! Does any of this make sense? Or am I rambling again???...

Texan Mama

8 comments:

leslie@gleaninggrace said...

It makes PERFECT sense! You've just written what I should have written at any given point these last few weeks.
You sure you aren't inside my head?
I may link back to this post if that's ok...whenever I get around to blogging again, that is :-(

GunDiva said...

You actually make perfect sense.

Glad you wrote it.

Gigi said...

Totally made sense; and I'm not even one full cup of coffee into my day yet.

It is a double-edged sword, as you say, though because usually if you try to kindly tell someone something for their own good (i.e., having an affair is a bad idea) they then feel like you are judging them. Even if you are not. But that is also a defense mechanism on their part. It's easier to be angry with you than to have to face up to the fact that they screwed up or might be making poor choices.

And no, you are the only one who craves acceptance. I think we all do.

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

If I say you were rambling, would that make you feel less accepted?

You weren't, so that's a moot ask.

My husband has a habit of telling me things I already know, namely when it's time to touch up my roots. Even though I know it, it stings a bit. Weird.

Many of my best friends make different choices than I do, and we do disagree. I think that's what we all like about each other, what we value about each other.

You example of the unfaithful friend surprised me. I would not promise to stick by someone exhibiting that behavior. It was done to me in my first marriage and it was devastating. I'd love that person, but there is no way I'd stay by her side.

So different than wearing clothes that are unflattering.

Bear and Bones Mama said...

Great post. And it is a hard situation. Years back my sister in law was getting married, and we knew it wasn't a good situation. We didn't say anything, let it roll. They got married and divorced within a year. I asked her, years after, if it would have made a difference if we'd expressed concern and she said no. She was in love and was going to get married. It would have hurt our relationship at that point. Hard tho, to watch someone you love go thru everything she went thru. I don't think we could have prevented it tho.

And I think it's great your husband told you what he told you. That had to be so hard for him to say, as hard as it was for you to hear.

I finally got rid of all my pre-pregnancy clothes last year. No one needs to see that my stomach isn't, eh, flat as it used to be :-)

-d

Jennifer said...

This is one of those balance things. If I love someone and accept them for the way they are, then I'm going to call them on it when they aren't acting like themselves. Acceptance doesn't mean blind loyalty.

For example, when my friend had her second baby she slipped into PPD really bad. I could have accepted that she was this new person that wanted to run away and hide from the world or I could call her on it and tell her she needed to get some help. I'm sure you can guess which one I did.

PS I'll always give you the tough love. :)

ridgely johnson said...

It's all in the wording, isn't it... I think we're all worried the words won't come our right as we've been hurt by misguided 'suggestions.'
Good work- keep rambling ;-)

Crystal said...

You make perfect sense my dear. Sorry I've been AWOL. It's tough when a spouse gets deployed...life got crazy out of control. I"m hoping to indulge in my internet love affair more now that kids are in school.