On Comparison vs. Acceptance

beach

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about acceptance. Ever since graduating college, I’ve felt a lot of pressure (from myself, mostly) to do certain things, be a certain way, or have a certain level of accomplishment in my life. Where does this pressure come from? I hate to be cliche and blame it on social media, but it’s true that information is so accessible these days that it’s near impossible not to feel a little less than compared to my peers. There is always someone traveling to amazing places, getting engaged, having a baby or celebrating some other adult life event I’ve yet to encounter. I actively participate in this comparison game without thinking twice about it.

What does comparison do for anyone? It rarely ever spurs me into action. In fact, it does quite the opposite. It makes me feel like I’m not enough, like where I’m at in life isn’t the right place, or that I’m not successful when compared to others my same age. Comparison does nothing for me except make me feel inadequate and sad, and like my life is lackluster in some way even though it’s not.

With age, I’m learning the value of acceptance. Acceptance of where I’m at in life, and acceptance of who I really am regardless of my notions of who I should be, or who others think I should be. I’m a little scared right now, and that’s okay. Most days I wake up and wonder where life is heading, what I want to do with my life, and it scares me that I don’t have the answers. So I scroll through the lives of others, picking up bits and pieces of the possibilities but realizing that I don’t feel much better after doing so. We really should stop that. In reality, does anyone in their 20s, even 30s and beyond have the answers? I’m not sure any of us ever find the answers we so obsess over finding. Life flourishes when we’re willing to let go a bit and embrace the change. We never grow when we compare, we grow when we accept, let go a little, and move on.

So – I accept my body. I accept that I really love pizza, and ice cream, and baking cookies. (Especially cookies.) I also accept the fact that I know I have the discipline to diet and workout 5 days a week and have the body to show for it, but also that maybe I don’t really want to be that hardcore. I’ve got some arm flab and some extra around my middle, but I’m okay with that.

I accept that good for me is enough. I will share my thoughts and my photography here and know that there are people out there who will think it’s bad and will dislike it. Fear of not being accepted (ha) is a big one for me. It holds me back from sharing things for fear of social disapproval, but I’m ready to be done with limiting myself in this way. If I am writing about something I find interesting, or take a photograph I find beautiful, I feel really good. And good to me is enough. It doesn’t mean I won’t push myself to be better or grow, it means I understand that what I think is good is not the same as what others deem good. I have little control over this and therefore shouldn’t let silly things like that control me and influence my decisions.

I accept that I’m not always so good with money. It’s really frustrating and exhausting to deal with cleaning up those messes, but I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way. It took me a long time to end the cycle of overspending, buying clothes and shoes out of boredom (and I still struggle with impulsiveness sometimes) and the desire to fit into a certain look that wasn’t me. It took an even longer time to begin the cycle of paying off debt and actually paying attention. I used to think I could find happiness in a shoe box or a new dress. A lot of money has come into my life over my years, and I’ve spent almost all of it without recollection of where it went (okay, shoes). But I’m also making really positive steps in changing how I think of money, saving, and spending, and that feels really good.

I accept where I am at right now, not where I am going or have been. We waste hours and days dwelling on things that have either already happened and therefore can’t be changed, or things that have yet to happen or may never happen in the future. The past is gone and can only really serve to teach us and help us grow, and the future is never certain. I’m not perfect at the balancing act of past, present and future and never will be, but I accept my past failures and triumphs and relinquish my desire for 100% control of my future. It’s just not realistic. Some of the best things in my life have resulted from stepping into complete uncertainty and it’s important to remind myself of that when I’m feeling afraid or trying too hard to control my future.

I accept my big, crazy dreams. I want to travel the world, live in another country, sail around the world with John, find a job where I can write, photograph and design all at once, make a big difference in someone’s life, be a bartender or own a beach bar, live at the beach, I could go on and on. There is so much I want to do in this life but I’ve always played gatekeeper when it comes to my dreams. If it sounds crazy I’ve been quick to dismiss it. I’ve bought into the assumption that the acquisition of things and status symbols and more money means more happiness. That is what everyone else does and it feels safe and “right.” My dreams and desires don’t fit into that world though. I accept that achieving my dreams is going to be difficult. It will require a lot of discipline and hard work, successes and failures, but to me it is totally worth it.

I accept who I am. Perfection is not attainable. I can admire others, but should not desire to emulate or be them because instead, I am me. I can grow and change, but it’s okay to do that on my own terms, at my own pace, true to my own values and opinions. I’m not perfect and will certainly be influenced and tempted from time to time by others, another thing I accept fully about myself, but at the end of the day I’m very thankful for the person I’ve become and in almost all ways am happy with myself. The relationship I have with myself is one of the most important ones to invest in. I never want to stop working on it.

The biggest lesson of all has been that acceptance doesn’t mean settling. Acceptance is to embrace. I’ve realized that I’m probably never going to have the answers to my life’s big questions if I can’t get past the step of accepting me 100% first. How can anyone make a change or move in a new direction without first knowing what she likes and values? And we certainly can’t move on from something without first accepting what has already happened. Acceptance is a baby step towards big change and I’m ready to take that chance.

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