not in Primary anymore

radical self acceptance.

Things I Learned While Growing Up in the Church that Therapy is Helping Me to Unlearn:

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  1. Self-sacrifice life trap: When I expend all my time and energy taking care of the needs of others, I end up sacrificing my own needs. While growing up as a girl in the Church taught me that my purpose was to meet, serve, satisfy, dote on the needs of others, no one ever taught me how to take care of myself. And no one ever told me that my life would be at risk if I spent years focusing on the problems of everyone but myself. Like with the oxygen masks on an airplane, I can only help other people once I know that I have met my own needs. I’ve been spending all my time running around, trying to put oxygen masks on other people’s faces, but killing myself in the process by not making sure my mask was secured first. When I focus all my time and effort on other people, my needs are not met. I convince myself that someone will love me enough to come and secure my mask, not realizing that I need to be the person who loves me enough to make sure my mask is secure. Securing my own mask should be my number one priority.
  2. “I’m fine”/pretend to be okay: I am not fine. I am very, very far from fine. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that. In fact, the healthiest response to not being fine is to say, “Okay, I am not fine. I am freaking out. And that is okay. I get to freak out.” There is no reason for me to feel ashamed of not being okay right this second. Admitting that, and being okay with that, helps me to continue toward becoming healthy. When other people ask me if I am all right, it is okay to tell the truth. Other people may shame me for not being okay. This is unacceptable behavior, but all I can do about that is tell people that their shaming is not helping, and not direct that shame inward. I need to reach out to the people in my life and let them know that I am not okay, and they need to let me be not okay. I don’t need people to fix me. I just need people to support me in whatever it is I am going through. I should not be afraid of being honest with the people in my support system about what I’m going through.
  3. Food is the same as support: Food is not a miracle drug. Eating does not make my problems go away. When I gather with the people I love to eat a meal, the comfort I feel is not coming from the food, but from being surrounded by people I love and who love me. Eating may be an excuse people use to gather people together and interact and support one another, but don’t confuse eating with emotional support. The emotional support does not come from the food. It comes from the people with whom I am eating. There are instances when people I know, or when I, may be in need of a meal, and people may bring me one. This meal is still not emotional support. The emotional support is the act of kindness that someone is doing for me, or that I am doing for someone else. Food meets physical needs. People are needed to meet emotional ones.
  4. God never gives me more than I can handle/I signed up for this in the pre-existence: I can drive myself crazy speculating about who signed my name next to These Specific Trials in the pre-existence, because no “me” in my right mind would have done so. I can spend days/months/years being angry with God for thinking that I am stronger than I feel that I am. Continually reminding myself that I am stronger than I think I am is not helpful. In fact, I am more likely to hurt myself or exacerbate my current situation if I continue to take on more than I know I can handle, because I think that God thinks I can handle more. It is okay to feel weak. It is okay to feel overwhelmed. Instead of trying to bury or push aside those feelings and keep going, I can stop. I need to recognize when I am feeling weak or overwhelmed, and validate myself in feeling those things. I need to look at what is on my plate, and decide what I NEED to keep on it (not to be confused with what I SHOULD keep on it). I can move slowly. I can cut what’s on my plate into smaller, bite-sized pieces. I can take as much time as I need to recover enough energy to tackle more things. It doesn’t matter what God or anyone else thinks I SHOULD be able to handle. All that matters is what I KNOW I can handle. And that’s all I need to do.
  5. Guilt is good: Guilt can be good. Guilt is what I feel when I know I have done something wrong. Guilt is temporary. Guilt is momentary. Guilt is what happens when I promise I will do something and I don’t fulfill that promise. Most of the “guilt” that I have felt in my lifetime is not actually guilt, but shame. Shame is never good. Shame is long-lasting. Shame is what happens when I continually beat myself up for something. Shame is how my thoughts become toxic. If I am in a relationship where I am constantly being made to feel shameful, then that relationship is toxic. No one “deserves” shame. It is okay to feel guilt for not fulfilling a promise. It is not okay to continue to shame myself, or for others to shame me, for not fulfilling that promise. It is okay for me to only be able to do what I am able, and no more.

Growing up in the Church has taught me a lot about being a kind, helpful human being. It has also taught me to put my focus on the person I can become, instead of the person I am. While this thought initially sounds like a good way to live life, it has the potential to create a lot of problems. All through my teenage years, I was inundated with messages from my Church leaders about how I can be better, and should expect nothing less than perfection from myself. Indeed, I was taught that striving for anything less than perfection is sinful. This may not be everyone’s experience, but I am sure that I am not the only person who received these messages as a kid growing up in the Church. Though it took a serious breakdown to get to this point, I have (very) recently learned about the concept of radical self acceptance, and started to implement it in my life. Radical self acceptance is accepting where and who you are at the moment, what you are feeling, and validating yourself. I have the right to feel what I am feeling right now. I am not perfect, and that is completely okay. I need not take on more than I can handle.

The idea of accepting who I am and what I am feeling right now, rather than focusing on where I SHOULD be or how I SHOULD feel, truly is radical. The idea that it is not okay to be anything other than okay doesn’t just come from the Church. As I have learned more about radical self acceptance, and have taken steps to implement it in my life, I have noticed how this act is analogous to spitting in Patriarchy’s face. I do not have to be anything other than what I am. Who I am now deserves to be validated, even though it may not fit into the Church’s or the Patriarchy’s or someone else’s idea of who I should be. And I deserve to take care of myself, instead of spending my life sacrificing for everyone else and neglecting me. I deserve to like who I am, and to be who I am now, or whoever I want to be–independent of anyone else’s opinions on the matter.

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I deserve to accept me. I deserve to not continue perpetuating beliefs that, though possibly grounded in good intentions, have become toxic. I deserve to be; to have a self to accept.

I deserve.

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14 Responses to “radical self acceptance.”

  1. corianne

    I’ve had two therapists now tell me to “stop shoulding on yourself”. As you said, you can’t help other people while you’re drowning yourself.

    Reply
    • KLM

      I too have had a therapist tell me not to “should all over myself.” It is never constructive.

      Reply
  2. kristy

    This post eloquently explains whag caused me to have a nervous breakdown when I was 17 and again at 32. Somehow I didn’t tkae thw warning signs the first time and fell back in the same trap once I was married. Thank you for giving my pain, anguish, and neuroses a name and bringing it into the light. I have always been surrounded by ‘takers’ and in thag rare instant when someone could see between the lines and offered love, I couldn’t let myself accept it. I have a lot of healing to do. Thankfully I started ‘murmuring’ and speaking up and feel my wound healing. I am giving myself permission to be what I think of as happiness. I am telling others to give me a break. And I allow myself to not feel shame about it.

    Reply
  3. Kristy

    One more thing. Looking back I also feel I had exercise bulimia as a teenager. To others it looked like I was a good track and cross country athlete, but I was really doing it out of self punishment. My mom left my dad, the church, and us 5 kids and was later admitted into a mental hospital. My dad was too overwhelmed and bitter to provide for us emotionally or financially and we had no family living near us. He did take us to church every Sunday though. I thought my only hope to get “blessings” was to follow “the commandments”. I did EVERYTHING I was told and took the initiative to “strive” to do everything else. Then what I couldn’t do I’d shame myself about hoping it would motivate me to squeeze more energy out of my teenage psych. I appeared to be fine and I did everything I could not to show any weakness or cracks so I would get the love I needed. I was president of every one of my classes in Young Women. I was Seminary president. I got straight A’s and took AP classes. I rode my bike 30 minutes across a busy highway to get to seminary that started at 5:30 am. I was President of the Art Honor Society at school and I cleaned our home from top to bottom in my spare time (Saturdays). My siblings silently resented me. I fasted every fast Sunday and felt a lot of shame when I did my homework on Sundays. I always smiled and helped. And I was perfect. I was miserable and felt an overwhelming amount of shame because I wasn’t “grateful” enough for what I did have, even if it was just a roof over my head. I wasn’t translated like I was hoping and my calling and election were never made sure. It was all in vain. My mom never was healed of her schizophrenia, no one ever asked my how I did it all, and everyone kept asking me if I could do more. I was duped. Somehow I fell through the cracks and had no power to cry for help.

    Reply
  4. Kristy

    And yes, I am seeing a psychologist and she is helping me find “my power” again.

    Reply
  5. megang

    As a girl grown up in the church, I went to therapy for the same things. My therapist couched her advice in the helpful-to-me idea that I needed to be my own “good parent” and not a “harsh parent.” If someone was threatening my child, I would react fiercely in their protection. If my brain is my own parent, I must react fiercely in my own protection.

    Anyway, thank you for this article.

    Reply
  6. Lorrie

    I am no longer young, nor a Mormon (I rejected that faith system in spite of well-meaning and loving family members who tried to mold me into it), but I can claim one of the three designations in the blog title.

    This being said, I hope that no one will take offense at my commenting on this post.

    In fifteen years of giving support and pastoral counsel to women of all ages, I think that one of the most distorted and damaging examples of thinking I heard–continually–was the phrase, “God never gives us more than we can handle”.

    The author of this post does a beautiful job of detailing the disastrous results of believing this lie. I would like to add one thing–that this phrase is found NO WHERE in the Bible. Not in the Old, nor the New Testament. It does not exist. What I do find there is exactly the opposite–an all-knowing, all-powerful, always-present Creator God, who loves us with so much depth and passion that he wants us to depend on him when we are overwhelmed by the events, traumas, and tragedies that are part of life. He never designed us to ‘handle it ourselves’, but we wrongly believe that we should–usually with poor results.

    Again, forgive the non-LDS comment, but I read the YMF site regularly. I appreciate the transparency and thoughtful writing by all who submit, and love that platforms such as this exist.

    Reply
  7. kristy

    To add to the damage of my teenage psych, when I started to question the directives from church and cut back I was told by adults that I trusted and confided in at church that ‘Satan’ was making these thoughts in my head. Now for someone who mom is paranoid schizophrenic and doubts herself a million times a day, this was not helpful. I now can confidently declare that ‘Satan’ and ‘reason’ are not the same thin.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    I am very happy that Jesus Christ did not put himself first and decide not to complete His mission on earth. He gave the example that it is okay to die for others and not put yourself first. When in the service of others we are not asked to die, but to use our talents to help others. Talents that we have been given from our Father. It is great to be able to help someone with our talents because it is easy for us, which could be difficult for them. Love, Dad

    Reply
    • Dani

      Not all of us are divine beings, here. I didn’t say it wasn’t okay to serve. I’m saying that, in the self-sacrifice life trap, you take care of everyone else and no one takes care of you.

      Reply
  9. dolly

    really interesting comment party here.

    and i loved your words.
    i’m so thankful to the learning the same things you’re learning.

    Reply

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