I am trying to recollect what comes to mind when I hear the words “self-acceptance.” I suppose I am reminded of the monotony of grade school lectures, having attended a middle school where self-acceptance was simply the topic of infrequent, yet inevitable, discussions that arose from time to time whenever there was the slightest scent of misbehavior within the anticipated formulations of pre-teen cliques. I can even recall sitting in a dimly lit room where, in front of my peers and I, sat an overhead projector lit by a blinding bulb and powered by a noisy interior fan that seemed to serve no purpose other than to circulate the late Spring heat around the muggy classroom. “Be proud of who you are and the many gifts you have” I can recall the teacher saying. It always seemed to address someone other than me. And as the years passed, these lectures seemed to become less and less frequent. By high school, it was almost as if the teachers had simply acknowledged the unavoidability of a stratified, teenage sub-culture that consisted of various groups whom all shared the unrecognizable common trait of self-conscious insecurities.
Later, as I entered the workforce, I can’t help but feel that the spaces I entered, the lectures I attended, the job training I underwent, the daily and weekly tasks I carried out, all served as nothing more than a unified catalyst of the bleak ways in which we do anything but accept ourselves through a process that is seemingly designed to mold and condition. I wondered how one could exercise self-acceptance in an environment when it seemed as though acceptance was being practiced but only to the extent of someone else’s approval and judgement. Despite being increasingly pleased to see a rapid rise in the recognition of the importance of inclusivity in the workplace, it raised the question; what is inclusivity if not embraced in a truly radicalized fashion and one that is fueled through an equally radicalized self-acceptance? I am skeptically cautious of the possibility that we are currently living in a period in which the desire to maintain an inclusive and accepting workplace, at times, greatly outweighs the actual presence of inclusivity in workplace.
And so, with this recognition, what might it mean to be radically self-accepting? In a world where the chaos of creativity can often disrupt those who find comfort in conformity, how does one establish a radical and relentless form of self-acceptance? I can assure you that by merely assigning words to serve as its definition, one is already doing a disservice to its potential and rightful existence. Radical self-acceptance undoubtedly falls on the same spectrum in which art might reside. A place where many choose to remain separated from constrictive impediments such as prewritten instruction manuals and other guides to reference at a moment’s notice when thinking independently becomes a forbidden task. It is born through much more than a mere week-long company orientation consisting of the same company code of ethics or a policy and procedures manual.
Radical self-acceptance should instead be a continuous practice that remains absent from the predetermined notions and rituals of the majority. It is a space in which all ideas and all passions are not only expressed but invited and demonstrated, especially by the party offering up such gifts. Radical self-acceptance is the recognition within the self that one’s thoughts and behaviors may not align with traditional thoughts and practices but are still carried out, appreciated, invited, and loved. It is a willingness to pursue wholehearted self-expression without the barriers of environmental or situational concerns. It is the practice of intentional effort to uphold a lifestyle that is not suppressed but instead, liberated. A lifestyle that is devoted to nothing other than an innate identity that has remained impervious to the influences of experience, judgment, and the expectations and desires of the masses. In simpler terms, radical self-acceptance is maintaining a truth to yourself in all places and situations and with all people despite any external pressures to change. I encourage you to embrace yourself. Love yourself. Be yourself.