This post is about my experience of self-acceptance.
Disclaimer: I'm sharing personal information here that some people could find upsetting.
I'm writing this at a stage in my life where I'm completely comfortable and confident in who I am and how I live my life.
I've felt this way for quite some time now. However, I spent a long time not feeling confident in who I am, fearing I wasn't good enough, fearing I'd be judged, feeling I wouldn't be accepted. Hiding away or avoiding talking about certain parts of my experiences in life.
I now know it's important to accept who I am and what my experiences are, whether others accept me and my experiences or not. Besides, those experiences are fact, there's nothing I could do to change them. What I can do is live my life fully and with love.
So, what did I used to hide away?
I grew up in Toxteth
All people know about Toxteth is that there were riots there in the '80s. People forget to stop and think when talking about areas that may not be salubrious, where people don't necessarily have the best in life. I remember being upset by this at university when a student from out of town said "Toxteth is a sh1t hole". He knew it so well because he sat on a bus as it drove along an avenue in Toxteth on his way to the city centre. He knew nothing of the place or the people. It's possible to find good and bad everywhere and I don't think anywhere is all bad. I feel fortunate to have made a good life for myself.
I grew up not knowing my dad
My dad is a stranger to me. Although I met him for the first time when I was 15, we've never had a relationship. When my son was born (critically ill), we were asked about family medical history and we knew about three of our parents, but not my dad. I also started to wonder about family history, as I had no connection to the black part of my heritage - and therefore my son's heritage. I spoke with my dad and sadly, he isn't someone I'll build a relationship with. It was incredibly difficult to talk with him. We still have no relationship, but I have no regrets because I've tried and I know we're not missing out on anything in terms of knowing him as a person. However, I do feel I've missed out on the opportunity to better understand the history and experiences of half of my family. I missed out on conversations about blackness or mixedness and have only really started to have those conversations in recent years.
My dad is from Barbados
I didn't like telling people this for fear of not being accepted as British, which is and always has been my only nationality and the only place I've ever lived. Yes, I've been asked where I'm from and then asked where I'm really from when the person asking wasn't satisfied that I could possibly be from Liverpool - where I was born and grew up.
I was desperately unhappy as a teenager
I don't know if anybody knew this, but there was nothing in my life I was happy with. I didn't feel like I really belonged anywhere. This included school, where I didn't feel valued by teachers and although I had friends, I didn't feel that I had any close friendships where people really cared about me. I was unhappy with my body, which grew incredibly rapidly as soon as I stopped competitive gymnastics. I didn't feel pretty, which any woman reading will understand is an important thing to girls. I felt I had no control over my life.
I attempted suicide in my early teens
I just didn't know where to turn for help to escape my unhappiness and anything I thought of felt like it wouldn't help. I always hid this because I didn't want people to judge me, think less of me, or worry I'd do it again. This is the one thing I still talk about least (and very few people know), because it's not something we tend to drop into conversation unless we've specifically set aside time to talk about it. Knowing this helps me to realise it's important to make it possible to talk about our experiences and share our thoughts with others, where we can support each other in making these conversations normal. Why am I sharing this now? I'm sharing it for two reasons. The first is, I accept my past and I no longer want to hide away. The second reason (which is the reason I'm sharing it here) is that I find this easier to say because I realise I'm not the only person who's had this type of experience...and if I can help someone else to see they're not alone in having this type of experience too, perhaps it will make it easier for them to feel they don't have to hide that away.
The first time I got married it ended in divorce
I hated supporting statistics that children from broken homes were more likely to be divorced.
That was a major turning point for me. For the first time in my life I lived alone, I had the freedom to live how I wanted without having to take into account anybody else at home. Over time, I got to know what I truly wanted in life.
Fast forward to where I am now in life with a career I enjoy (and another I'm building - being a life coach); a home life I love with my wonderful husband and our amazing son; and
I know I'm a good person, who belongs on this earth and has plenty to offer the world.
I'm completely comfortable and confident in who I am and I don't worry about being judged by others.
I believe one of the things that can help people to feel more comfortable with the experiences they'd rather hide away is hearing from others who've had similar experiences. Knowing you're not alone and knowing you can move forward from wherever you are can be empowering.
I hope there's something in here that can help you to feel more comfortable with who you are; or more comfortable with sharing who you really are. Your experience may be very different to mine, but if there's anything you feel you're hiding away, perhaps it's time to start thinking about how to stop hiding and let the real you shine through. You might need support in doing this depending on what it is and what you need to do to be who you really are.
Have a look at my 'Be You' life coaching programme to see if it could help and if so, I'll be delighted to help you in getting from where you are now to where you want to be. However, not everything is as straight forward as having a coach. If you're dealing with anything serious and need counselling, therapy or other specialist support, please do look for charities, support groups or other professionals who can help. Really check them out and make sure you're comfortable they can provide what you're looking for. Remember, you always have choice and although others can have influence over your life, you are the only one who can really make the decisions.
What part of the real you do you want to stop hiding away?