Self-Acceptance

If we were to encounter a magic lantern in an enchanted wood that came with a directive that our 3 wishes had to be about self-improvement, most of us could easily come up with a few things right off the bat about ourselves that we’d like to change. We all have stuff that we have little to no ability to change about who we are, but we REALLY wish we could.

My longest running and most prevalent “something to change” would be the decreasing but still ongoing companion of Acne. I guess it makes some kind of sense that since I was into boys at an early age, that I would wind up developing early, too. And perhaps in an effort to teach me the graces of humility at an early age, accompanying my amply sized chest grew the red, swollen marks of acne. Through middle school, high school, and my two years of college, acne was a varying but constant presence, strewn plainly across my face for all to see and sometimes marvel at. It was my crippling weakness, my deflater of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-acceptance. And ultimately, by way of debilitating levels of agony and disappointment, my greatest teacher.

I firmly believe that every single excruciating thing that has ever happened to us has the potential to wake us up to something. Every experience has the capacity to be used for growth or deflation, depending on how we use it.

Just as every tool can be a weapon, so too can every weapon be a tool.

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Childhood Cornerstones

Today, in my early morning writing session, I stumbled upon two particularly crucial elements of my childhood, which serve as vital cornerstones of my spiritual life now, as an adult.

The first of which is my having been raised in the rooms of recovery, as the only child of a single mother who committed to getting clean and sober when I was 3-years-old. Growing up going to AA and NA meetings alongside my mom, hearing hundreds of personal, hard, heart-wrenching, and inspiring stories trained me in developing a deepened sense of empathy, compassion, understanding, connection, openness, and authenticity. It also taught me how to be a good listener and afforded me a different perspective and a more genuine way of seeing the world.

The second one has to do with what may sound like an unlikely and strange catalyst for creating a positive foundation for a spiritual life: acne. Here’s what I wrote this morning in my journal:

I have a weathered face from so many tortured years plagued with acne – a scourge which still continues, albeit with less vigor and frequency – and I think, though it somewhat pains me to say (given how much torment it put me through), that it made me a better person. Sure, my ego could get embroiled by my long hair, but it was always cooled right down when I looked in the    mirror – it’s difficult to feel vain and over-inflated when the face you greet the world with is riddled with red swollen peaks and distressed pits and valleys, ravaging you in despair. But now, looking back, I think it may have been a good thing that my formative years were spent under such facial duress, as it put me in touch with something…more, something…greater.

Accruing acne so early in life (around age 11), and maintaining it steadily through early-adulthood, trained me in the art of developing humility. And it gave me countless lessons in looking beneath the surface, in relation to both myself and others, to find what cannot be ascertained by one’s deceptive outward appearance. It also taught me about impermanence. And the importance of cultivating a rich, full, and joyful inner landscape.

Thinking about these two elements in this specific context just arose for me this morning, so I look forward to further processing this new insight.

Thank you for reading, as it inspires me to continue on the path of writing – which is the best internal processing agent I know of.